Jon Kay, founder of Torklift International, passed away Feb. 2 while holding the hand of his son, Jack, according to an announcement from the company. He was 76.
Kay established Torklift in Kent, Wash., more than 40 years ago. He told his family shortly before he passed that he wanted to die courageously to be an example for his family.
“He was not just a visionary, but a man of great strength and tenacity. When he had his first heart attack at age 46, I remember him getting back on his feet and telling me that he was told he only had 10 years left to live due to his heart condition,” said Torklift President Jack Kay. “He began to work out by walking up the long Smith Street Hill in Kent about four miles every day to and from work. That was 30 years ago and just one of many such examples.”
In 1976, Kay founded Torklift Central in downtown Kent, starting as a one-man, one-bay service center where he custom-fabricated trailer hitches and repaired trailers.
From the beginning he instilled a strong work ethic in his employees. He regularly worked side-by-side with his employees, underneath a truck installing parts and troubleshooting issues. Even in his later years he actively worked at Torklift inventing new products, working with employees and working on robotic and machinery ideas.
“His work ethic was foundational and built solely upon serving his family, employee and customer’s needs first and foremost from the beginning to the end,” said grandson and Torklift Operations Manager Joel Crawford.
Kay invented the SuperHitch, truck camper tie-downs and FastGun turnbuckles among other products. The creation of these products led to the expansion of an additional football field-sized facility for Torklift International where these products are mass-produced. Jack Kay, longtime leader and company president, will continue to lead the organization.
“Several years ago, after the FastGun was first created, a woman told my dad that she suffered from crippling arthritis in her hands,” said Jack Kay. “She explained that she was considering not using use her truck camper because she was unable to operate the old-fashion manual turnbuckles – until she learned about the FastGun turnbuckle. Because of that product my dad invented, this customer was able to enjoy truck camping for many more years.”
Kay cared for his customers and was quoted several years ago saying, “I always look at things like I’m the customer. That’s my motto. I want to give them a good product at a fair price.”
Kay’s funeral will be held at Fir Lane Memorial Park, located at 924 E. 176th Street, Spanaway, Wash., at 1:30 p.m. on Feb. 18. A viewing will also be held Feb. 17 from 3-7 p.m. Flowers are welcome to be sent to Fir Lane or in lieu of flowers donations are encouraged to be sent to Kent Food Bank located at 515 W. Harrison Street #107, Kent, WA 98032 care of the Kent Turkey Challenge. The Turkey Challenge was an annual fund-raiser Kay’s company hosted each year benefiting local families in need.