By JEFF HARRELL
South Bend Tribune Staff Writer
11:42 PM EST, January 5, 2012
The man who turned pushing a lawnmower into a multimillion-dollar
riding mower empire has died.
Entrepreneur Cecil Elwood Pond, 87, developer of the modern riding
lawnmower and founder of Wheel Horse Products, died Dec. 30 in Palm
City, Fla., following a brief illness.
Born in South Bend to Elmer and Ann Marie Pond, Pond graduated from
the former Washington-Clay High School and served in the U.S. Army
during World War II.
Pond returned to South Bend after the war and married Betty Alber in June 1946.
The same year, Pond teamed with his father, who was building two-wheel
lawn tractors from angle irons and surplus motorcycle and automotive
parts out of his garage.
"He didn't like to mow the lawn," Cecil Pond's son, Gary Pond, of
South Bend, said of his father Thursday night. "He didn't like to push
the lawnmower, that's how it came about."
Pond crafted a business which helped shape the post-World War II
suburban American landscape and the growth of the consumer lawn and
garden equipment industry.
During the explosive growth of suburbs in the 1950s, Wheel Horse sales
increased to more than $1 million by 1957. Two years later, sales
topped $4.5 million.
When Wheel Horse sold to American Motors in 1974, more than 3,000
retailers were selling Wheel Horse products throughout the country.
Pond went on to acquire Skystream Airlines -- a commuter airline
serving northern Indiana, Illinois and Michigan.
He also purchased Lakeside Winery, Michigan's oldest vineyard, in
Harbert, and served as president of the Young Presidents Organization.
An avid golfer who also enjoyed playing bridge in his spare time and
taking his family on skiing trips, Pond was a member of South Bend's
Morris Park Golf Club.
In 2000, Pond was the subject of the biography -- "Straight From the
Horse's Mouth" -- by Michael Martino.
Besides his son, Pond is survived by daughters Linda Pond Rea, of
Spring Lake, Mich., and Constance Pond Hubbard of New York; seven
grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
Memorial services will be held at 10 a.m. Jan. 14 at Sandhill Cove in
Palm City, Fla., and at 2 p.m. May 12 at Unity Church in South Bend.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to a nursing scholarship
honoring Mr. and Mrs. Cecil Pond at Memorial Health Foundation,
Memorial Hospital and Health System, 615 N. Michigan, South Bend,
Staff writer Jeff Harrell:
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