Industry pioneer Thomas “Tommie” Dodd died Nov. 29 of a heart attack. He was 87.
Known as an indefatigable pool professional, Dodd co-founded Premier Pools — not the national franchise, but a custom pool-building firm based in Lewisville, Texas — with two of his sons in 1989.
But it was quite a journey getting to that point.
Born and raised in Ireland, Dodd came from a family of construction professionals. He apprenticed in the building trades, working as a carpenter and mason, acquiring skills and craftsmanship that would come in handy later. In 1954 he went to Canada to work on an oil rig.
After that, he headed for the United States and spent six months on the GM assembly line. His ambition and imagination already were surfacing. “He came up with ideas to help them improve the process,” said son Peter Dodd, “but he couldn’t imagine life on an assembly line.”
Indeed, Tommie Dodd went into the pool-building business in the 1950s, starting out at Dotken Custom Pools, a high-end builder in Encino, Calif. Around that time, Peter said, his father had a neighbor who worked at Dow Chemical, and Dodd helped him test chemicals that are used to this day, such as the chemical compound now known as cyanuric acid.
In fall 1958, Dodd struck out on his own, starting Shamrock Pool Service in San Fernando Valley, Calif. He handled weekly service and repairs for several Hollywood notables, such as Robert Stack, Clint Eastwood, Fred Astaire and Norman Lear.
In 1962, Dodd became a salesman for Anthony Pools in the Los Angeles area. He found a natural affinity for the job, working his way up to district sales manager and typically selling 100 pools a year, besides performing his sales management duties.
Dodd headed for Houston 10 years later to work at Howard Pools, where he stepped up his game even more, selling nearly 700 pools in four years. And so it went, as he moved to other pool companies over the years in San Antonio; Orlando, Fla.; and other locales.
By 1989, it was time to embark on his own pool-building venture in Texas with sons Peter and Sean. Today the firm builds custom gunite pools and outdoor environments in Dallas-Fort Worth, with price tags of $30,000 to over $2 million. Peter Dodd, who is vice president, said his dad always came up with new, different ideas for pools and could hold his own with professionally trained engineers.
“When [they] would work with him, they would always say, ‘He’s really good!’ ” Peter Dodd said.
Tommie Dodd’s reputation as a consummate pool professional may be what led him to be an expert witness at trials as needed.
As much as Dodd loved pools, he held certain charities near and dear to his heart, too. He started a program with the Knights of Columbus to feed the homeless, and eventually became an honorary lifetime Knight. “It got 450 families off the streets,” Peter Dodd said.
His compassion also led him to take off for 10 years to care for his wife, Elsa, when she got Alzheimer’s disease. “He said he lived life with no regrets — he never put her in a home,” Peter said.
Dodd is survived by sons Peter, Sean, Joe and Tom; daughter Mari Letendre; 12 grandchildren; and a great-grandchild.