In some ways, Donald J. Wilson was a larger-than-life figure in the Western pool and spa industry. His passion led him to play an active role in numerous organizations. “He would work and help everybody,” said his son, Mark. “He spoke his mind.”
The forefather of Hasa Inc., a family-owned chemical manufacturer in Saugus, Calif., died of natural causes April 23 at age 88.
Wilson’s saga began in Michigan, where he was born and obtained a chemical engineering degree from Michigan State University. He served in the Army Air Corps, and worked at Standard Oil of Indiana and Eli Lilly Co.
After moving to Southern California, Wilson bought then-struggling Hasa Inc., which was established in 1964, and turned it into a successful maker and distributor of sodium hypochlorite and related products for the pool, industrial and water treatment markets in the West. The firm currently has six locations in four Western states.
Believing in the importance of a strong, thriving pool industry, Wilson worked toward helping to build one. He was a member and strong supporter of industry lobbyist SPEC (now the California Pool & Spa Association), spending “countless hours” in Sacramento and Washington, D.C., Mark Wilson said. “A lot of people don’t want to stand up and work with government, but that’s a mistake,” added the younger Wilson, CEO of Hasa.
His father also was active in IPSA, the precursor of the Independent Pool & Spa Service Association, and co-founded the Western Pool & Spa Show. “Don was very instrumental in forming and keeping the show going in the early years,” recalled Peter Haverlation, a longtime WPSS organizer who knew Wilson more than 40 years. Haverlation was impressed by how his friend “… kept that spirit of education alive and growing. ”
Wilson also was co-founder/president of the Swimming Pool Trades & Contractors Association, and a longtime supporter of the Chemical Industry Council of California. And for more than three decades, he was a member of the California Business Alliance and a supporter of the USA Olympic aquatics programs.
Besides being a family man, Wilson was a car racing enthusiast. His early career days were spent, after all, in Indiana, where the Indianapolis 500 is huge. So it was that in the 1980s, Hasa opened an Arizona location and sponsored race cars in the lower division following the Indy circuit. Wanting to give back to Hasa customers, Wilson invited some to bring their families to the races. What began as 20 guests swelled over the years, culminating in more than 1,200, said Mark.