The president of First National Bank in Hermitage, Steve Gurgovits, fondly remembers that fateful day when James E. Winner Jr. came into his office for a loan reports the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
“He sat down and sort of had a grin on his face,” Mr. Gurgovits said on Wednesday. “He said, ‘This is my next venture.’ He opened the bag and pulled out a club and put it on my desk. I said, ‘What is it?’ He said, ‘I’m going to call it ‘The Club.’ ”
The device, a simple steering-wheel lock, was a prototype of what would become the most ubiquitous anti-car theft device in the world.
Mr. Winner, who parlayed The Club into a business network that fueled various philanthropic efforts in Sharon in the tradition of his hero, turn-of-the-century Sharon Steel magnate Frank Buhl, was killed Tuesday in a head-on collision in Clarion County that claimed the lives of two other people.
State police said Mr. Winner, 81, who split time between homes in Mercer County and Hollywood Beach, Fla., was driving his Lexus on Miola Road in Highland at about 4:40 p.m. when his car crossed the center line into the opposite lane and hit a Chevy Blazer driven by Bobby Jarrett, 82, of Forest County.
Mr. Jarrett and his passenger, Raymond Fair, 76, of Tylersburg in Clarion County, were both killed.
Although The Club’s effectiveness has been challenged and the Federal Trade Commission in 1992 ordered the company to stop touting a Fraternal Order of Police endorsement in its ads, the product is recognized around the world and has led to an array of other Winner security devices.
Image from The Club