Outdoor Power Equipment

August 2017

Proudly serving the industry for which it was named for more than 50 years, Outdoor Power Equipment provides dealers who sell and service outdoor power equipment with valuable information to succeed in a competitive market.

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Page 35 of 51

MAN OF STIHL Remembering the life and legacy of industry icon Fred J. Whyte BY STAN CRADER EDITOR'S NOTE: The following excerpt was graciously provided by Stan Crader from his upcoming book, Stihl American. The book profiles the pioneers of Stihl's reintroduction to America, including Fred J. Whyte. F or 20 years, Etta Whyte waited at home for her husband's safe return. Al Whyte, a graduate of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police School, comparable to America's advanced FBI training, served on Vancouver, British Columbia's police force for more than 20 years before joining Titan. Al was Titan's sales engineer responsible for Washington, Idaho and Montana. Since the new position was with an American company and required working in America, Al, Etta and their 8-year-old son Fred moved a few miles south, across the Washington state line. After gaining considerable knowledge of the chainsaw and timber industries while serving Titan, McCulloch and Homelite, Al was hired by Stihl American to cover America's Northwest, the world's greatest timber region. Al and Etta's only son, Fred, watched and learned. During Fred's undergraduate college summers, he interned at Homelite's northwest branch office. It was a prescient beginning. As is the case with all honorable Scotsmen, Fred mastered the bagpipes, simply referred to as 'pipes' by true Scotsmen. By the time he graduated from college, Fred had competed in and won several piping contests, the consequence of which was an offer by the University of Iowa for a staff teaching position and an opportunity to earn his Masters Degree. The University of Iowa had a long-running tradition for its pipe band. When the enrollment of pipe-playing men dwindled during WWII, the university created an all-women's pipe band. Fred's teaching position was not awarded in order for him to play the pipes, but rather for him to direct the world's largest all-women's pipe band — 150 members strong. One of his students, only a couple of years younger, first caught his eye, then his heart, and then became his wife. Newlyweds Fred and Karen — he just having completed a sales training curriculum with Datsun of America and she just settling into her position as the county nurse — received a life-changing phone call from Fred's father, Al; opportunity was tapping at their door. Rainer Gloeckle, the Whiz kid, who Fred's father had succeeded in the Northwest, was leaving Arkansas and returning to Germany. Al encouraged Fred to apply for the position. In 1971, most people had yet to hear about Stihl, and those who had, couldn't properly pronounce the name. A typical dealer display consisted of a three-saw rack with two of the saws used and dripping oil. Stihl was recognized and highly praised by many professional loggers, but Stihl's market share was likely in the single digits. Stihl was nowhere near the leading brand it is today. It's possible that Fred had at one time begrudged his father for being forced to learn the pipes, but if so, he surely realized that it was the pipes that led him to Karen. And he had fond memories of the time he'd spent working at Homelite as an intern. To top off the prescient series of events that had taken place over the course of several years, Fred had used one of Stihl's newest models, the S10, during a recent visit with his parents. All things considered, Fred realized his father usually knew what he was doing, and doing it for good reason. Fred and Karen rightly concluded it prudent to take Al's advice and at least apply. Fred flew to New Jersey for the interview. Gordon Williams picked him up at the airport in his 600 Mercedes Benz. Fred recalls getting stares while receiving the royal treatment and then getting into a Mercedes limousine. It's not likely that any of Fred's University of Iowa Masters program classmates would be treated to an interview such as the one Fred was about to attend. Rather than check into a hotel, Gordon took Fred to his home to meet the Williams family. While watching an NFL preseason game, the first American man of Stihl, Ernie Rainey, joined them. Based on what each had heard about the other through Fred's father, it was almost as if they'd already met. Judging by the evening's agenda, it's plausible to think that Gordon had COVER STORY | Fred J. Whyte 36 AUGUST 2017 OUTDOOR POWER EQUIPMENT www.outdoorpowerequipment.com Fred J. Whyte

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