Sir Walter Lindal, the founder of Lindal Cedar Homes, died Thursday at his home in Seattle after a short battle with kidney failure. He was 92.
Sir Walter Lindal never stopped inventing.
He held more than 30 patents in the U.S. and Canada, including one for a machine gun. This week, despite his illness, he gave a handwritten draft of his latest idea to one of his sons.
Mr. Lindal, 92, founder of Lindal Cedar Homes, died Thursday at his Seattle home after a short battle with kidney failure.
“He was always working,” said his granddaughter, Trina Lindal, who is the online marketing manager for Lindal Cedar Homes. “He worked from dawn to dusk.”
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The only time he would step away from work was to watch the 6 o’clock news, she said.
Lindal Cedar Homes, founded in 1945, is the world’s largest maker of prefabricated custom cedar homes. Its flagship headquarters are on the east side of Interstate 5 near Boeing Field, and its homes across the Pacific Northwest are iconic, she said.
Mr. Lindal created the company, first known as Colonial Homes, in Toronto after the war, when many veterans returned and needed housing quickly.
Mr. Lindal, whose uncle worked in a lumber yard in Chicago, set about creating a system where all the materials for home building could be obtained from one place, cheaply.
Cedar was the best and most abundant material, and his packages for homes started at $195.
Mr. Lindal was born Jan. 31, 1919, in Elfros, Saskatchewan, on a farm. He spent his childhood in an orphanage after his mother died when he was 2. During the Depression, he and his brother sold chicken eggs, earning 15 cents for a dozen.
“Fifteen cents, in those Depression days, was a lot of money,” he told Inc. magazine in a 2006 interview.
During World War II, he joined the Canadian Army, where he soon noticed a problem. Its machine guns had heavy barrels, so a soldier couldn’t comfortably fire one standing up.
Mr. Lindal, working in the engineers corps, moved the gun’s weight farther back and designed a shorter, narrower round. His gun was not only lighter and better balanced but could hold more ammunition.
Six months later, Mr. Lindal was an officer. In another six months, he was a captain.
“And I spent the rest of the war in research-and-development work and never got shot at,” he told The Seattle Times in a 2002 profile.
He also worked on an anti-aircraft tank that could shoot down German planes.
The Sir in his name is the English translation of his Icelandic given name, Skuli, and not a knighthood. After the war, he went on to create the multimillion-dollar Lindal Cedar Homes business.
He moved from Toronto to Vancouver, B.C., in 1962 to be “closer to the cedar,” his granddaughter said. He liked cedar because he felt it was the most attractive wood, and it didn’t decay.
In 1966, he moved to Tacoma, and in 1970 to Seattle, and the company eventually grew to 100 dealerships.
“We’ve shipped over 50,000 homes around the world,” said Sig Benson, vice president of marketing.
Mr. Lindal’s first wife, Isobel, died in 1990. He is survived by his current wife, Lady Margrit Rosa; four children, who are all partners in the business, Bonnie McLennaghan, Robert, Douglas and Martin; as well as three grandchildren, Trina Lindal, Christina Lindal and Jacob Lindal.
A memorial service will be at 2 p.m. Tuesday at Horizon House, 900 University St., Seattle.
Material from Seattle Times’ archives is included in this report. Jeff Hodson: 206-464-2109