Robert J. Pond of Palm Springs, Calif., made sure flying airplanes was a big part of his life, from his days as a Navy pilot, while running Advance Machine Co. in the Twin Cities, and during his retirement.
Pond, the Minneapolis industrialist whose collection of World War II airplanes once filled the Planes of Fame East Museum at Eden Prairie's Flying Cloud Airport, died of a cranial hemorrhage Dec. 14 in Palm Springs. He was 83.
To his parents' alarm, he became a Navy pilot during World War II, serving as a flight instructor from 1943 to 1945.
The family firm, which dates to around 1900, made floor grinders and polishers used on marble floors. Under Pond's leadership, it grew and made commercial and industrial floor-cleaning machines.
Around 1950, he persuaded his father to buy a company airplane, said his son-in-law Kenny Holley of Edina. Again, his father didn't like the idea of him flying, but the younger Pond won out.
"He said the secret to success was the company airplane," said his son-in-law.
By 1961, Pond was leading the firm, which he would build into a $100 million company. When he sold it in 1989, he had nearly 800 employees, manufacturing facilities in the United States and overseas and sales offices worldwide.
Pond believed his executives should be pilots, said Bill Whitbeck, of Minneapolis, a retired Advance executive, who said Pond was a tough but generous manager.
In business, "he didn't make mistakes," Whitbeck said.
Pond also started a charter plane service about 25 years ago that he owned for several years.
He began collecting World War II airplanes in the early 1970s, and shared his collection with the public at Flying Cloud from the early 1980s until the mid-'90s.
The planes were flown between the Twin Cities and the Palm Springs Air Museum for many years. He closed the museum in Eden Prairie and moved the planes when he retired to Palm Springs.
Steven Hinton operates the original Planes of Fame Museum in Chino, Calif., the outfit that restored most of Pond's airplanes. Hinton said Pond was generous to all, and "liked to help people along, especially if they were involved in aviation."
In 1965, he was a director of the old Bank of Minneapolis.
He also collected antique cars. "He didn't collect them to collect them," said his son-in-law. "He saw them as a thing of beauty."
Pond graduated from Faribault's Shattuck Military Academy, now Shattuck-St. Mary's, in 1943. In 1948, he earned a bachelor's degree in business from the University of Minnesota.
His former wife, Betty, died in 1998. He is survived by his wife, Jo Rose Pond, of Palm Springs; a daughter, Polly Holley of Edina; two stepdaughters, Roseann Brand of Palm Springs and Mary Jo Holsman of Davie, Fla.; a stepson, Harry Brand of Lakeville; a sister, Barbara Allen of Spring Park; four grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.
Services have been held.