Adolf Schoepe, a pioneering business executive in Orange County, died Sunday after a brief illness. He was 97.
Schoepe, who suffered a stroke seven weeks ago, died at St. Jude Medical Center in Fullerton.
The German immigrant co-founded Kwikset Lock Co. and moved it to Orange County in thelate 1940s, when orange and lemon groves dominated the local landscape.
After selling his interest in Kwikset in 1957, the German immigrant started toilet-parts maker Fluidmaster Inc., which would become an industry powerhouse.
Schoepe, a Fullerton resident, also helped found the United Way chapter in Orange County and the Orange County Chamber of Commerce.
Born in Berkenroth, Germany, Schoepe came to the United States in 1927 with $25 in his pocket. He spoke no English.
But his skills as a master metal worker helped him land jobs in the country's fledgling aircraft industry. During World War II, he helped train women in welding, a skill badly needed in producing wartime aircraft.
As the war was winding down, Schoepe and a partner bought a defunct lock-manufacturing plant in South Gate. They renamed the business Kwikset and moved it to Anaheim in 1948. Under their direction, Kwikset became a leading maker of locks.
In 1957, Schoepe sold his interest in Kwikset, which later became a subsidiary of Black & Decker Corp. That same year, he founded Fluidmaster.
Today, the closely held company employs nearly 500 people and has become the world's largest maker of toilet-repair products. Last year, Fluidmaster, based in San Juan Capistrano, had sales of $150 million, the company said.
Even in his 90s, Schoepe played an active role in the company, said Bob Connell, Fluidmaster executive vice president. Schoepe, who served as chairman until his death, "was down on the floor every day, talking to employees and personally inspecting parts," Connell said.
Schoepe is survived by Virginia Sherrill Schoepe, his wife of 53 years; a daughter, Sherrill Schoepe; a son, Robert AndersonSchoepe; and three grandchildren. Services will be announced.