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Gert Boyle, 'One Tough Mother' who led Columbia Sportswear, died at the age of 95



Gert Boyle, longtime chairman of Columbia Sportswear and the caustic star of the most memorable advertising campaign in apparel history, died Sunday morning at the age of 95.

"There would be no Columbia without Gert Boyle," said Secretary of State Betsy Johnson D-Scappoose, a longtime friend. "Somewhere along the line, Gert ended up being just a smart, knowledgeable, successful business person and transformed into an Oregon icon."

A resilient, demanding, charismatic woman in what has long been an outdoorsman, he drove Boyle Columbia Sportswear from 1

970 to 1988, and established the company's brand.

Before her son, Tim, took the lead as president and CEO, Gert inspired the 1984 advertising campaign, "One Tough Mother," a catchphrase that also adorns her autobiography of 2005. [19659005] "There are many business executives who want a book, "said Peter Bragdon, Columbia Sportswear Executive Vice President and Attorney General.

"Not many people have a story to tell."

Boyle added to the legend in the 87s when she staged a dramatic invasion of the West Linn home in 2010.

When a kidnapper of the bush -league followed Boyle into her garage with a copy of her book and an impressive replica handgun, demanding money, Boyle had the presence of mind to insist that she first needed to disable her home security system.

Instead, she pressed the silent one. Boyle ended up with bruises and a bloody lip, but when the West Linn police officer swung past to ask how she was going, Boyle said, "Everything was fine before you came in with the North Face jacket. "

Boyle spent his final half century fighting to dress everyone in Columbia Sportswear gear, even though it meant posing with a Windwear jacket while her son, Tim, asked:

" Unlike our chairman , it is incompetent leased and light. "

And not nearly as fun. "She put her heart on a plate and she had an evil tongue," said Oregon State Rep. Kate Brown.

When Boyle moved to Mirabella, the Portland retirement community, after the kidnapping attempt, she always pleaded for the age of neighbors.

Heck, Johnson says, "She was the only person in the nursing home with a full-time job." She never stopped going to work because she knew it brought out the best in her.

"I came in early," Boyle once said, "and mistreated as many people as I can find."

Kerry Tymchuk, her autobiography co-author and CEO of the Oregon Historical Society, once operated Boyle and two friends – Antoinette Hatfield and Kathy Duncan – downtown when Boyle asked his companions if any of them had read, "Fifty Shades of Gray."

Neither had skimmed the erotic swallow, so Boyle asked Tymchuk for a quick book review. which followed, quipped Boyle, "Hell, I'm 91. Can't do that. Also read about it."

Boyle was born in Augsburg, Germany, and had just turned 9 when Adolph Hitler came to power and the Nazis scraped "Jews live here" on the wooden side of the Lamfrom home.

Most of her family fled Germany in 1937. Six decades passed before Boyle could hold back, when a reporter asked about Augsburg's return made her nostalgic, Boyle said : "Remember d u not the story? The last time I was here, people were trying to kill my family. "

Several months after Lamfroms arrived in Portland, her father, a long-time clothing, bought the Rosenfeld Hat Company and changed its name to" Columbia Hat Company. “After a boring summer or two on the hat-box assembly line, Boyle was happy to flee to the University of Arizona, where she met her future husband, Neal.

They were introduced, Boyle admits in "One Tough Mother," when both were blitzed and parked under a table at a Sigma Nu frat party. Understanding that they were equally compatible when sober, they married in 1948. Neal went to work for Gert's father while keeping up with their three children.

Her world fluctuated December morning in 1970 when Neal's heart failed. [19659023] Gert and Tim, a senior at the University of Oregon, were suddenly indicted for running a family business they knew little about.

"It was the blind who led the blind, honestly," says Tim Boyle. “We both started shooting people who were critical. It probably wasn't a good idea. ”

When the bad ideas emerged, sales plunged 30 percent. The bank threatened to pull the Columbia credit line. Gert and Tim Boyle were willing to sell the company to the potential buyer trying to nick-and-dime her at closing time.

Gert cussed. Gert raged. Gert started the plaster from his office. When her back was to the wall, Gert was at least complicated, relying on her chutzpah and stubborn determination.

Columbia Sportswear sold for $ 600,000 in 1971, the year after Neal Boyle's death. It had sales of $ 2.47 billion in 2017. Gert's shares in the company were worth nearly $ 900 million in 2018, making her one of the richest Oregonians.

"The world may never have known her talents, but for the fact that her husband died so young," says Brown. "She never gave up. She represents what I think when I think of Oregon: We are mavericks, innovators, creators. "

Boyle was the first woman inducted into the Sportsing Goods Association Hall of Fame, but she was not an early fan of Bill Borders & # 39; brilliant "One Tough Mother" campaign.

She loved the place where she drove a Zamboni over a skating rink with her son encased in the ice below, but she was not convinced that a male-dominated audience would appreciate glamor images and such taglines as:

My Mother Makes Combat Boots.

Indulgent tyrant. It has a nice ring.

She wants to retire when hell freezes over, but that's when we need her most.

Hall-of-Fame moments, it turns out. All of them.

She was too busy raising a family and reviving a Fortune 1000 company to occupy gender, Boyle writes, but she discovered that "some of the skills I learned as a mother and in running a household were very transferable to the workplace – skills like encouraging people to come together and not spend money unless you have it. "

Once she had, Boyle gave $ 100 million to the Knight Cancer Institute at Oregon Health & Science University.

" She threw the gloves on the big boys, "Johnson said." I knew she was thinking about doing it anonymously, but she didn't want Warren Buffet to credit her $ 100 million gift. "

After Boyle, her identity leaked, emerged, OHSU renamed a research center after her sister, biochemist Hildegard Lamfrom, who died of brain cancer.

Dr. Brian Druker, director of the Knight Institute, said of Gert, "She said she gave what she could, the same like thousands of others who contributed, and did not think she was entitled to more praise than anyone else.

"She said: & # 39; I think if anyone told you, & # 39; Do you want to leave a legacy? & # 39; What better way to help humanity?" remarkable legacy in many, many ways, and we will miss her … but never forget her. "

Columbia said grieving could donate to the Knight Institute instead of sending flowers.

The company also said that it would announce plans for a celebration of life in the coming days.

Boyle is survived by his son, Tim, and two daughters, Sally Bany and Kathy Deggendorfer; five grandchildren; the 3300 employees of Columbia Sportswear; and a star-struck Zamboni .

– Steve Duin


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