Martin Hoffinger, a tireless crusader for the pool manufacturing industry and longtime head of aboveground pool-maker Doughboy, died on Jan. 23. He was 88.
As CEO of Hoffinger Industries, Marty, as he was best-known, was revered as much for his willingness to speak out against frivolous lawsuits and defects in the American legal system as he was for his revolutionary pools and filtration systems.
“With his passion, he was able to protect the interests of a lot of people in this industry,” said Mike Balek, owner of Mr. B’s Pool Center Inc. in St. Louis, a Doughboy dealer since the early 1980s. “The only thing he loved more than the pool business was his wife, Lorraine. She was his pillar.”
Hoffinger and Lorraine were married 66 years.
Until the time of his death, Hoffinger was active in his company as well as the industry. He rarely passed up an opportunity to visit with friends and colleagues at trade shows and events, including the recent International Pool | Spa | Patio Expo in Las Vegas.
“He was there in November, pounding the floors as always,” Balek said. “And whenever you approached him, he was genuinely excited to see you. He was just a wonderful example of our industry.”
Hoffinger’s legacy dates beyond aboveground pools. In his first business venture, he sold ice cream at age 14, with his famous slogan, “Be a Smarty, Get it from Marty.”
“He was a classic entrepreneur ever since he was a small child,” said Doug Hollowell, president of Hoffinger Industries in Olive Branch, Miss. “He was definitely an innovator. And he would often say, ‘You can always sell quality and value, in any economy.’”
About 10 years later, Hoffinger and Lorraine founded Lomart Industries, a small tool and die company in Brooklyn, N.Y. The pair toiled for several years until one day, in 1954, Hoffinger decided to buy an aboveground pool, a status symbol at the time.
His frustration with its maintenance, however, led the young businessman to develop a filter for the vessel — and Hoffinger Industries was born.
Hoffinger would go on to acquire the Clinton Engine Co. in 1966, followed by Doughboy Recreational in 1974.
Over the years, some of Hoffinger’s toughest battles took place in the courtroom, where he was a vocal proponent of tort reform, or proposed changes to the civil justice system that would curb litigation and damages.
“I think he took a hit for a lot of the companies around here,” Balek said in reference to a pair of multimillion-dollar verdicts against Hoffinger’s company in separate product-liability cases in 1995 and 2001.
Hundreds of mourners turned out for Hoffinger’s Jan. 27 memorial service at Temple Judea in West Palm Beach, Fla.
In addition to Lorraine, he is survived by three daughters, eight grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.