Harken co-founder passes away in Pewaukee, Wisconsin

Olaf Harken, co-founder of US deck hardware manufacturer Harken Inc, passed away yesterday in Pewaukee, Wisconsin. He was 80.

Olaf and his older brother, Peter, created the hugely successful rope handling business that bears their name, by “working hard, delivering excellence, and having fun every day”, reads a Harken statement.

Olaf & Peter Harken

Brothers Olaf & Peter Harken started a boat building company in 1967 that would evolve into the international business bearing their name – Harken Inc. – specialising in performance sailing hardware selected by Olypmic, America’s Cup and everyday sailors worldwide.

Harken makes marine hardware, hydraulics and winch systems for racing and cruising sailboats of all types and sizes.

Today, Peter Harken told an assembly of Harken members: “My brother did all the hard work so I could have all the fun.

“During the days when the company was just getting going, Olaf was in charge of the money. He kept us in business. If I had been in charge of that we would have been in big trouble.

“His legacy is in this culture. So, let’s just keep doing what we do. Just keep getting better. You are a great family. Thanks a lot. He’ll be watching you, so no sloughing off!”

Today at Harken, CEO Bill Goggins said: “You couldn’t have scripted a nicer weekend for Olaf than the one just past. Pewaukee Yacht Club honoured Olaf on Saturday night with a Lifetime Achievement Award to a full house standing ovation. He rose, walked to the front and accepted the award with his usual grace and dignity. The evening was highlighted by Olaf and Ruth on the dance floor.

“Sunday was a simple Packer game with his family and then, a remarkable chance 30-minute walk with his brother in the sunshine. He died peacefully in his sleep with his loved ones nearby. The company mourns his loss; however the company celebrates his life by doing what we do…every day…into a bright future.”

Olaf is survived by his wife of 47 years Ruth, three daughters, four granddaughters and one grandson.

Preliminary plans include a visitation and service Saturday morning, October 26 at Galilee Lutheran Church in Pewaukee, followed immediately by a celebration at Harken corporate headquarters.

For overseas friends, another celebration of Olaf’s life will be held during the annual METSTRADE show in Amsterdam in November.