Outdoors retailer and inventor Arthur Jack Kirkham died this week in Sandy at age 89.

Kirkham, who died June 15, was a businessman who in 1944 established AAA Tent & Awning, which later became Kirkham's Outdoor Products.

He was a family man in every sense of the word. He gave "giant bear hugs and big sloppy kisses" to the grandchildren, painted the portraits of his immediate family members and wrote journal entries for the benefit of his family, said Jack Kirkham Jr., his son who currently runs the retail store.

"Family was high up there, " he said. "Working in a business like this, the employees were also his family."

The company's founder was also an inventor, and he developed the Springbar tent, which increased the quality, longevity and durability of the camping gear. The Utah National Parks Council, whose area ranges from Utah County to St. George, has used the Springbar tents for 30 years.

The council has taken the tents to the National Scout Jamboree, and they have withstood hurricanes and high winds where other tents have failed, said Ron Nyman, director of field service for the Utah National Parks Council.

"It's been a good investment," he said. "They're very well built. You don't get wet, and they don't bleed like nylon tents."

The high-quality product is no accident, but an outcome of Kirkham's creativity in patent design, the inventor's son said.

"The key word is simplification," the son said. "He didn't want complexity. Instead, he wanted to make something that will improve people's lives."


E-mail: jfrancis@desnews.com