Transportation 17

Music by the O'Neill Brothers


Vaughn LeRoy Beals Jr.

January 2, 1928 ~ August 19, 2018 (age 90)

Vaughn L. Beals, Jr. of Scottsdale, AZ passed in peace Sunday, August 19, 2018. Born January 2, 1928 to Vaughn and Pearl Wilmarth Beals, Vaughn grew up in Massachusetts where his work ethic and entrepreneurial spirit were evident at an early age. He delivered Boston newspapers twice a day and worked his way up to the distribution of papers to newsboys. Vaughn graduated from Arlington High School and was able to attend Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) with his newspaper earnings, the encouragement of his parents, scholarships and grants. He completed his bachelor’s degree in aeronautics and began his career doing research at Cornell Aeronautical Laboratory, Buffalo, NY. It was there he met his wife Eleanore Woods Beals. After their marriage in 1951 they returned to Massachusetts where Vaughn worked in research at MIT while obtaining his master’s degree in aeronautics. He was then hired by North American Aviation where he conducted research on carrier-based supersonic aircraft for the US Navy. In 1965 he was recruited by Cummins Engine Company to run their newly built Engineering Research facility later becoming head of the company's Domestic Operations. As he moved into managerial positions, he never lost his interest in research and development of an engineered product and his biggest challenge was ahead.

In 1975 AMF, a leisure products company and owner of the Harley-Davidson Motor Company, was facing severe competition in the motorcycle industry. Vaughn was brought in to oversee the engineering of new products as well as improvement in product quality and production. An added bonus to this job was learning to ride and becoming an enthusiast who could identify with the expectations of customers. 

In 1981, Vaughn, representing 13 company executives, negotiated the purchase of Harley-Davidson, returning the company to private ownership and serving as Chairman and CEO. Under his leadership, manufacturing reforms and employee involvement plans were instituted, leading to the company's success and return to the public sector. Vaughn always recognized the company’s turnaround was a team effort and appreciated each and every one who participated. Although he was pleased to receive industry awards, Vaughn’s greatest reward was the survival of the company during difficult times.

Vaughn and Eleanore retired to Scottsdale, AZ and recently spent summers in Gig Harbor, WA to be near their family. Vaughn is survived by his loving wife of 67 years, Eleanore, and their children, Susan and David Sonju, Laurie and Steven Sandberg; beloved grandchildren Jennifer, Karen and Eric (Samantha) Sonju and Christina (Anthony) Zielinski and Benjamin Sandberg; cherished great- grandchildren Edie, Nora and Jane Sonju, Gunnar and Aksel Zielinski. He also leaves a dear sister-in-law Elaine Woods Cobel and nieces Carolyn, Alannah and Ava Hamstead.

Vaughn believed education to be the foundation of success and wishing to offer encouragement, he and his wife established several college scholarships and created an Endowed Chair at Buffalo State College. The family requests that memorial donations be made to the existing Vaughn L. Beals, Jr. Financial Aid Fund at MIT, 77 Massachusetts Ave., Building 4204, Cambridge, MA 02139-4307 or to a charity of your choice.

Private family services and burial will be in Gig Harbor, WA.

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