Wade Arens, co-founder of drain-cover manufacturer AquaStar Pool Products, passed away Feb. 4 after a long battle with cancer. He was 59.
Arens co-founded the firm in 2002, and over the next few years AquaStar quickly became a player in a category that included some of the industry’s largest manufacturers.
Born Oct. 10, 1951, in Monterey Park, Calif., Arens attended the University of California, Irvine, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in experimental psychology.
During college he played water polo on an NCAA Championship team and was recognized as an All-American on the school’s swimming and diving team. Arens also went on to coach swimmers and water polo players.
Starting in the industry as a pool builder and spa retailer in the early 1970s, he then served as a regional sales representative for Pebble Technology in the early 1990s.
“Wade was one of the best at building relationships,” said Terry Jirovsky, former PebbleTec president. “His customers were, for the most part, his friends and I think they continued to be his friends after he left PebbleTec.”
Former clients remember the same thing. “He was one of those guys who always handed out his cell phone number in case you needed anything,” said Tony Adams, president of Adams Pool Solutions in Pleasanton, Calif. “He would do anything for people. I don’t think I ever heard a bad word out of his mouth about anybody.”
In 2002, Arens moved on to start AquaStar with business partner Olaf Mjelde. He served as the firm’s technical coordinator, overseeing testing, writing papers and acting as liaison with government agencies such as the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
“It was all about doing the right thing and being at the front of [the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act],” Mjelde said. “He was a very knowledgeable individual who exuded professionalism. There’s nobody I’ve ever met who didn’t like him.”
Arens was known for his upbeat attitude. Friends and associates say this mind-set, coupled with a strength likely built in his days as an athlete, helped him in the face of cancer, which he fought for approximately 10 years.
“He was always positive, not dwelling on the negative or what we couldn’t do but rather what we could do,” Jirovsky said.
Added Mjelde: “He was the strongest guy I ever knew.”
He is survived by wife Charlice; sons Wade Jr. and Paul; daughter Amy; two grandchildren; his mother, Barbara Smith; two brothers and two sisters.