Founder of Amana Appliances Dies
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) _ George Foerstner, who transformed a businessman’s request for a reliable beverage cooler into the popular Amana line of household appliances, has died. He was 91.
Foerstner died Sunday of cardiac complications in Bal Harbour, Fla., where he spent his winters. He also had a home in Middle Amana, across the street from an Amana plant.
Born in 1908, Foerstner left school at age 13 to work in his father’s auto parts business. He became a salesman for the Amana Woolen Mills in 1929.
Five years later, a local businessman asked Foerstner to build a beverage cooler. The resulting Electrical Equipment Co. was renamed Amana Refrigeration in 1936 when it was purchased by the Amana Society, a former religious commune.
During Foerstner’s 48 years at the company’s helm, Amana became a household name _ introducing, among other products, the first side-by-side refrigerator-freezer and counter-top microwave oven.
In the 1940s, the company won marketing acclaim by hiring Hollywood stars _ including Gary Cooper and Groucho Marx _ to appear in advertisements.
Later, when the safety of microwave ovens was challenged, Foerstner brought in a respected scientist to defend the appliance.
``It hurts to know he’s no longer living. He did so many innovative things,″ said former Gov. Robert Ray, who knew Foerstner for many years.
Chuck Carroll, chief executive of Amana Appliances, called Foerstner ``an American hero from humble beginnings who built a successful company and internationally recognized brand.″
Raytheon Co. bought the Iowa-based company in 1965 and sold it in 1997 to Houston-based Goodman Manufacturing, which renamed it Amana Appliances.
Foerstner’s survivors include a daughter and a son.