Cover photo for Durwood L. Airhart's Obituary
Durwood L. Airhart Profile Photo
1936 Durwood 2016

Durwood L. Airhart

January 1, 1936 — February 4, 2016

Durwood Lee Airhart, age 79, of Litchfield, MN, died peacefully on Thursday, February 4, 2016 at the Lakeview Ranch in Darwin, MN. A funeral service will be held at 11:00 AM on Tuesday, February 9, 2016 at the Cornerstone Church in Litchfield, MN. Visitation will be held from 4:00 - 7:00 PM on Monday at the Johnson-Hagglund Funeral Home in Litchfield. Visitation will continue one hour prior to the service at the church. Interment will be in the Lake Ripley Cemetery, Litchfield, MN. Durwood Airhart, son of James and Viola (Berhow) Airhart, was born November 13, 1936 in Whittamore, IA. At 9 years old, Durwood and his family moved to the St. Paul area. Durwood graduated in 1955 from Mechanic Arts High School in St. Paul, MN. It is there that he met the love of his life, Jacqueline Jean Lowe. On the day of his senior year, Durwood paid cash for a brand new car and an engagement ring, and proposed to Jackie on the way to their graduation. They were married on April 6, 1957 and had three children: Scott Allen, Beth Lynn and Shelley Ann. Durwood worked hard his whole life. Starting at a young age, he and his brother helped their aunt and uncle with their cabin and boat rental business on Big Sandy Lake in Northern MN. Before he even hit his teens, Durwood was already an entrepreneur with his own fishing guide service. His love of fishing lasted his entire life. So much so, that he and his wife lived on several lakes throughout their marriage. He also had at least two other ""businesses"" as a young boy—delivering newspapers and shining shoes at the local bars up and down University Avenue. During High School, Durwood was also employed as a photographer with Mando photo where he took pictures at high school proms. This part time job landed him a full-time job upon his graduation. Through a twist of fate, Durwood's mother-in-law worked at Buckbee Mears—a photoengraving plant in downtown St. Paul. Upon her suggestion, he applied for a job and through that found his true calling in life. Recognizing his natural talent, Durwood was quickly moved up the company and worked closely with one of its owners, Norman Mears. In 1968, Durwood starting working at Hutchinson Industrial Corporation (now known as Hutchinson Technology), a young company that began operations in a renovated chicken coop. Durwood became an integral part of the company's growth and success. During one point of his career, Durwood wanted to reward the staff under his management for working so hard, so he asked if he could take them out to lunch to celebrate—on the company's dime. He was refused and took them to lunch anyway, paying from his own pocket. It was that fateful choice by the decision-makers that paved the way for bigger and better things to come, as Durwood went home that day and told his wife he wanted to start his own business; then he would have the chance to treat his employees the way he felt they deserved. And, he believed, he ""could go alone"" anyway. In 1975, Litchfield Precision Components was born. With the blessing of his wife and an initial loan of $2500 from his mother-in-law, Durwood purchased a necessary piece of equipment and rented a small space on north Sibley Avenue in Litchfield, MN. He started with one employee, help from his wife and little else. Over the years, the business grew and eventually a new building was required to hold all the equipment and employees. At one point, LPC employed over 350 people. In 1986, driving back from a night at the Chanhassen dinner theater—a gift from their employees—Durwood and Jackie saw a large amount of smoke coming from the area of their plant. Their worst fears were realized when they discovered that LPC was on fire. The family and employees were devastated. People and businesses from all over immediately reached out to help, and in a matter of days employees were ironing and blow drying wet papers and records, salvaging all they could. Buildings were offered to LPC at no charge to house equipment so they could process orders the best they could. This all happened at a time Durwood and Jackie were seriously contemplating retiring and selling the business. As a family, the Airhart's voted to rebuild LPC, rather than ""take the insurance money and run."" They all felt they owed it to the employees, as in their minds, they were more like family than anything else. Eventually, a brand new building was constructed and designed to be state-of the-art for the production of highly complex precision components for the computer, medical and circuitry industries. LPC was often sought out for its ability to ""do the impossible,"" as Durwood and his team could engineer what was, literally, next to impossible. Durwood has several patents in his name, and in 1987 was voted as the Small Businessman of the Year for the state of MN. He was truly a brilliant man, and never had a college degree to his credit. The employees of LPC were an important part of Durwood and Jackie's life. They respected their value, and created an atmosphere of appreciation and fun…many will remember the golf outings, bowling events, family picnics, year-end parties with dancing and music, and a host of other gatherings. Other than fishing, Durwood lived to golf, loved to hunt and enjoyed being out on his fishing boat in the Gulf of Mexico near Bradenton, Florida where he and his wife enjoyed the winters during their retirement. Durwood is survived by his wife Jackie Airhart of Litchfield, MN, 2 children Beth (Rich) Aquilino of St. Cloud, MN, Shelley (Ron) Huggett of Litchfield, MN; 6 grandchildren Dylan (Mia) Airhart, Luke (Jill) Huggett, Solomon Airhart, Leah (Brandon) Nagel, Timm (Miranda) Airhart and Madison Airhart; 7 great grandchildren Urijah Airhart, Jocelynn Trainor; Brynn, Trig and Sawyer Nagel, Gwen and Olive Huggett; sister Genese (Jim) Colberg Miltonia, MN. He was preceded in death by his parents, mother- and father-in-law, brothers Ronald and Donald Airhart, sister Gerene Martin, Child Scott Airhart. In lieu of flowers, please consider donations to Lakeview Ranch, 69531 213th St, Darwin, MN 55324. For 13 months while Durwood was residing here, the staff became almost like family to his wife and daughters. They will be forever grateful for the caring, love and support they experienced at ""The Ranch.""Previous Events Visitation Monday, February 8, 2016 4:00 PM - 7:00 PM Johnson-Hagglund Funeral Home 316 Sibley Avenue South Litchfield, MN 55355 Visitation Tuesday, February 9, 2016 11:00 AM Cornerstone Church 205 CSAH 34 Litchfield, MN 55355
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