Bill Hanousek, the last of the four pool builders who formed the Master Pools Guild, died Dec. 21. He was 82.
The founder of Master Pools and Spas in Palm Desert, Calif., William Richard Hanousek Sr. was born in St. Paul, Minn., Aug. 23, 1928. He attended the University of Notre Dame and University of Minnesota before joining the Air Force in 1952.
Hanousek entered the pool industry in its early days. After his military service, he worked as a construction superintendent in Palm Desert, where he oversaw pools being built as part of some commercial projects. Hanousek took an interest in this industry niche and purchased local retailer Poolquip in 1958. Eventually he opened a pool-construction firm, at first calling it Custom Pools by Bill.
“He liked taking an intangible and producing a tangible item, going from concept to completion,” said his son, Steve Hanousek, who now serves as vice president of construction at Master Pools and Spas.
Hanousek, along with three other Southern California builders, formed a tight-knit group around equipment manufacturer Swim Quip and its head, Bill Baker. The industry was young, and Palm Springs at that time was fairly isolated.
“Fifty-two years ago, there wasn’t much expertise, and manufacturing wasn’t out here in the desert,” Steve Hanousek said. To stay current, Bill Hanousek would travel to Swim Quip’s El Monte, Calif., headquarters so he could work with Baker and other local, motivated builders to learn more about hydraulics. The drive was 110 miles each way, but he did it one or two weekends a month.
The group became an official organization in 1962 under Baker. The Swim Quip Master Builders Guild was meant to form a network of noncompeting professionals who could comfortably share advice and information. Eventually it spread across the country and became the Master Pools Guild. Shortly thereafter, Hanousek changed his company’s name to Master Pools and Spas.
Hanousek’s peers recall him as always being friendly and cheerful. “Bill’s nickname was Papa Smurf,” said Bruce Dunn, president of Mission Pools in Escondido, Calif., and a fellow Master Pools builder who has collaborated with Hanousek’s firm on various desert projects. “He was just like a Smurf character — always smiling and a fun guy.”
He was also a savvy businessman.
Hanousek started his company, in part, because he foresaw that Palm Springs and its environs would become a resort town and hub for the rich and famous. He worked on pools for Elvis Presley, Liberace, Steve McQueen, the Marx Brothers and Zsa Zsa Gabor, among others. Hanousek’s first store was even next to the TV repair shop that would have to open hastily in the middle of the night so that Presley’s hired help could replace the sets that the King shot when he was angry.
As an elder statesman, Hanousek was eager to teach and share his experience. He was particularly proud of his role in forming Master Pools and wanted to carry on the mission.
“Master Pools’ slogan is ‘We come to share,’ and my dad always wanted to share,” Steve Hanousek said. “Our joke was that if you asked him what time it was, he’d tell you how the watch was made. He was passionate about everything and was the type of person who, when he set out to do something, wanted to be the very best.”
Hanousek remained president of his company until about 2004. It has since been run by his sons, Bill Jr. and Steve.
After retiring, Hanousek spent as much time as he could sailing and enjoying the outdoors. He is survived by his wife Gladys, sons Bill Jr., Steve and Jim, sister Jean Hanousek Martin, and four grandsons.
Donations can be made in his name to Martha’s Village & Kitchen and the Coachella Valley Rescue Mission of Indio.