JOHNSBURG – Robert “Bob” Switzer will be remembered as “forever young” by family members, in part because of his “adventurous, entrepreneurial spirit.”
“He was kind of like Elvis Presley and Evel Knievel rolled into one,” said his son, Peter Switzer.
Bob Switzer, 85, died Dec. 29 at his Johnsburg home. He is survived by his wife, brother, sons, daughter, 12 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. Bob Switzer had a passion for boating since he was young, and he ran Crystal Lake-based family business Switzer Craft boat company, which manufactured racing boats until 1982.
Bob Switzer also was a Navy veteran and avid boat racer who broke records and won numerous awards and titles, Peter Switzer said.
“His passion was his family, boating and that relationship in the boating community,” Peter Switzer said. “He loved to be part of it all.”
Switzer was well-known in McHenry County. When the business first started, Switzer and his brother, Dave Switzer, worked out of the basement of a lake house, then moved to the basement of Gladstone department store in McHenry before settling the business in Crystal Lake.
They had never taken out a loan and had no collateral when the owner of Home State Bank – McHenry acted as a guarantor for their business loan, Peter Switzer said.
“My dad would cry when he told that story. It’s unheard of today,” Peter Switzer said. “He just believed in their business and was excited to help them be successful.”
Bob Switzer’s racing successes included three national outboard racing championships. He also won the Albany to New York marathon in 1953, as well as many other victories throughout his long racing career, according to his obituary.
The boats that the family company manufactured are relatively rare. The business made about 8,000 Switzer craft boats, which still have a somewhat “cult following” involving a Switzer boat club and annual regatta, Peter Switzer said.
“Not only did we all have an opportunity to learn from our dad’s entrepreneurial side, we all have a love of boating, as well,” Peter Switzer said. “Our family vacations all revolved around boating. … On a lot of family vacations, we would load up the siblings, get in a small motor home and go to a boat race and things like that.”
Peter Switzer said his mother, Carol Switzer, was his dad’s rock.
“He absolutely loved my mother,” Peter Switzer said. “Even though my mom played a silent role, a lot of his success was because he married such a supportive person.”
Dave Switzer said Bob was a faithful and charismatic man who added great talent to their business team.
“I think that our lives really exemplified our sense of what a true brotherhood could be,” Dave Switzer said. “I think it gave our potential customers confidence that we would be suited to serve them in any way we could.”
Family and friends are invited to gather at the McHenry Country Club at 3 p.m. Thursday to celebrate Bob Switzer’s life. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the First Church of Christ, Scientist, McHenry.