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Park Tool founder Howard Hawkins passes away

Published January 27, 2015

PHOENIX (BRAIN) — Howard Hawkins, 82, unexpectedly died of cardiac arrest in a Phoenix, Ariz., hospital Monday.

Hawkins, along with Art Engstrom, and the company’s many employees, built an iconic brand around the notion that few tools were available to fix bicycles as they became more complex to repair in the 1960s.

As a result they began making their own tools and the first was a bicycle repair stand. The stand took the bike off the floor and made it easy for mechanics to repair it. Local bike shops soon adopted it and then executives at the Schwinn Bicycle Company liked it so much they requested a production model.

The fledgling company then expanded to include truing stands. That led to a variety of other tools and they then expanded into tools for average cyclists.  The Park Tool “blue” is a standard feature at almost every retail outlet in North America and enjoys wide distribution in Europe and Asia.

Hawkins and Engstrom had been a perennial top 10 Schwinn dealer in the Twin Cities with three stores, but later sold their shops to focus on the tool business. Both Engstrom and Hawkins retired. Park Tool celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2013. Today there are more than 300 tools in the Park catalog.

Eric Hawkins, who heads the company as its president, said his dad loved visiting the factory. “He was here a lot walking around and saying hello. Everyone just loved him; it was like having a grandpa around,” he said.

Eric had been in Arizona last week and attended a car auction with his dad before returning home. His dad had recently been in the hospital and had been given a stent and was anxious to get up and about, he said. “Obviously it was his time to go, but it’s very hard to lose the patriarch of the family,” said Eric, who has three sisters. “My mother is holding up well. She’s very strong, so that means a lot.”

Eric said his 82-year-old dad had been slowing down a bit, but still enjoyed building the company’s booths for Eurobike and Interbike. “He just loved being part of that. And he was always amazed at how successful the company had become over the years,” he added.

Services and visitation will be held Sunday and Eric will deliver the eulogy. Hawkins, a former Navy veteran, will be buried Monday at the Fort Snelling National Cemetery in Minneapolis.

More on Park Tool's history: Park Tool expanding into larger HQ; Park Tool celebrates 50th.

Howard Hawkins at the company's 50th anniversary bash.

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