Upfront: OPE industry loses more than a leader

By Steve Noe

As I was headed with my family to Chicago’s Midway Airport for vacation on August 10, I vividly recall a hearse passing us on the highway and thinking about how lucky I was to be alive and well and on my way to spending some quality time with my wife, three daughters and extended family. I also thought about how precious life truly is and how we shouldn’t take a day of it for granted.


 Jay PeckJust two days later, I was reminded of that moment and those thoughts when I received the shocking and sad news that on the same day we left for vacation, Jay Peck, president of Subaru Industrial Power Products, passed away after a brief battle with pancreatic cancer. He was only 59 years old.

Brad Murphy, Subaru’s vice-president of sales and marketing, issued the following statement on behalf of the company: “We are deeply saddened by the loss of Jay. This is a tragedy beyond measure, not just for us here at Subaru, but for our entire industry. We’ve lost more than a leader, colleague and visionary. We’ve lost a friend.”

Peck’s contributions to Subaru and the industry cannot be overstated. A Lake Geneva, Wis., native, Peck got his start in this industry while attending the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater (UW-W), spending his summers working for Teledyne Total Power’s (TTP) Power Center in New Berlin, Wis. After graduating from UW-W with a business management degree, Peck joined TTP full time and at age 34 became its youngest-ever vice president (of distribution) in 1985. In 1988, he was promoted to VP of sales and marketing and assumed responsibility for the sale of Robin engines, which were being marketed in North America under the Wisconsin Robin brand as part of an agreement with Fuji Heavy Industries in Tokyo.

After leaving TTP in 1991 to start his own company, Wisconsin Industrial Products, Peck handed the business over to his wife Lynn in 1993 and started working directly for Fuji Heavy Industries, spearheading the planning and opening of wholly-owned subsidiary Robin America in Wood Dale, Ill. He was quickly promoted from VP of sales and marketing to president of Robin America in 1996 and led the company (now known as Subaru Industrial Power Products) to become one of the leading suppliers of small industrial engines.

Regrettably, I never had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Peck, but I would like to pass along my sincerest condolences to his family, friends and colleagues. Based on what many of them said in a five-page press release, which can be read in its entirety at www.outdoorpowerequipment.com, I could tell that he meant so much to so many people.

“Jay will be sadly missed in the OPE industry,” said Dan Ariens, president, Ariens Company. “Not only was Jay an innovative thinker, but he became a dear friend. We were all shocked and saddened by the speed of Jay’s passing; the Peck family will be in our prayers.”

Ariens’ sentiments were echoed by Will Coates, president, Billy Goat Industries. “We are heartbroken by the sudden loss of Jay Peck,” he said. “He was not only the consummate promoter, he was a good friend. Jay had the uncanny ability to light up any room, in any situation, on any continent. Our heartfelt condolences go to his wife Lynn and the good folks of Robin America. Jay will be missed.”

The Peck family has established the Jay Peck memorial fund for the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network. This national organization works to create hope for pancreatic cancer patients through research, patient support, community outreach and advocacy for a cure. A donation in Peck’s honor can be made at www.firstgiving.com/fundraiser/jennyfrank/keepjaysmemoryalive?fge=ask. The Peck family will be notified of all donations, and the fund has already raised more than $10,000, which speaks volumes about Peck and the magnitude of his loss.

OPE Editor Steve Noe


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