The self-professed Pool Spa Doctor of Fairfield, Conn., Larry Penna, died unexpectedly March 18, 2015 after a car accident. He was 61.
Penna began his life in the pool industry at the young age of 16. He started his own business, The Pool Doctor, in 1975, four years after graduating from high school, and later changed the name to include spas.
The company is involved in all aspects of the pool industry, including the installation, renovation, design and servicing of residential and commercial pools and spas.
The business truly is a family one, with three of his six sons working there. Anthony Penna described his father as the ultimate family man: “He loved being with his family … hanging out in the back by the pool.”
Larry introduced his sons to the pool world. David, Lawrence and Anthony Penna helped run The Pool Spa Doctor even after their father partially retired a few years ago.
“Come May, it would get busy and he would take off, saying, ‘You’ve got the ship,’” Anthony Penna said. “He worked hard and deserved everything that he was doing.
“He got cheated, but at least he got to enjoy the last five years.”
Penna was a longtime member of the Connecticut Spa & Pool Association’s Board of Directors. He also served on the CONSPA License Committee, where he helped convince Connecticut officials to introduce a license for pool and spa service technicians in 2002.
Working with the Northeast Spa & Pool Association and a few other organizations, Penna provided insights and pushed the state’s Department of Consumer Protection to create a pool and spa license.
He also was a longtime NESPA instructor, heading courses at the association’s Hamilton, N.J. headquarters since 1990.
“He created a board of relays to help teach the technicians how to troubleshoot spa packs, when it wasn’t digital,” said Paulette Pitrak, deputy director of NESPA. “He used light bulbs to turn on the different functions of the spa. We still have a couple of his boards. He was great at making sure those technicians had the training they needed when they went out to troubleshoot hot tubs.”
On the Pool Spa Doctor website, Penna’s teaching technique is described. It states that he never answered students’ questions. “Instead he would ask the students questions to lead [them] into dialogue that would direct them to answer their own questions.”
The site notes that he taught students from as far away as Saudi Arabia.
Pitrak described Penna as a “true Renaissance guy” and one of her favorite NESPA members.
“He did everything from making wine to learning how to fly,” she said. “He was always interesting and always interested. We never ran out of things to talk about.”
In addition to his sons in the business, Penna is survived by his wife, Erika, and sons Marc, Nicholas and Joseph, as well as his mother, sister and five grandchildren.