Inventor of The Club, James Winner, dies in head-on crash in Pa.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Inventor of The Club dies in Pa. crash

CLARION, Pa. — The inventor of The Club, James Winner, has died in a head-on collision in western Pennsylvania.

State Police said the Tuesday crash on a rural road in Clarion County also took the lives of two other people when his sport utility vehicle and their car collided.

Winner, 81, invented the popular anti car-theft device, and his Sharon-based company Winner International sold more than 10 million of them. He also was widely known for his philanthropy in western Pennsylvania.

In a statement Wednesday, company officials said it was “a very difficult time for all of us and the family would request that you honor their privacy.”

In the 1980s, Winner developed the steering-wheel lock known as The Club after his car was stolen. He sold the first one in western Pennsylvania before creating Winner International.

Winner also was interested in bettering the region. He said he wanted to make the area a tourist destination and create jobs after the loss of industry there. He bought and restored buildings, including the downtown Sharon home once owned by industrialist Frank Buhl, which Winner converted into a bed and breakfast.

Winner owned hotels, schools and businesses, including Winner Steel, which he eventually sold.

“Jim was just a great man and did more behind the scenes than people even knew,” the Rev. Larry Haynes, who worked with Winner through the Shenango Valley Foundation community group, told the Sharon Herald.

Winner was born in the town of Transfer and worked on his family’s farm from the age of 5. He attended school in a one-room schoolhouse before joining the Army at age 17.

Authorities said Winner’s SUV crossed into oncoming traffic striking the car. The other two killed were identified as driver Bobby Jarrett, 82, of Tionesta, and passenger Raymond Fair, 76, of Tylersburg.

Winner also had a home in Hollywood, Fla.

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