By: Jim Johnson
January 3, 2014
William Keith Swinehart had a good run, according to his son.
The long-time plastics industry entrepreneur died last month at age 97.
“Dad was ready. He led a good life, and he died in action. He was on a date taking his lady friend to a play,” his namesake son, Keith Swinehart II, said.
Swinehart died Dec. 18, while walking to see a play, “42nd Street,” at the Art Center of Coastal Carolina in Hilton Head, S.C.
“Keith enjoyed life to the fullest, even remarking to his son during a visit in November 2013, that he had never been happier,” a portion of his obituary reads.
During his life, Swinehart had many accomplishments, including his work to build and take partial ownership of Consolidated Plastics in Dallas in the 1950s. That company made plastic profile shapes used in doors. He later got into the PVC pipe business as his Plains Plastics business in McPherson, Kan., became “prominent on the plastic extrusion map,” his obituary states. CertainTeed Products Inc. acquired Plains Plastics in 1965, but Swinehart continued working for the company.
By 1976, the businessman again had what his son called the “entrepreneurial itch” and started Vanguard Piping Systems Inc., again in McPherson, to make polybutylene pipe. That company was sold in 2005.
Swinehart saw his parents’ dairy business fail in 1926, and this helped fuel his interest in becoming a businessman himself after he realized, even a young age, he could earn his own money.
“It taught him a lesson that he could do things on this own, and he was in charge of things, and he liked that, and he did it,” his son recalled.
His first job was selling magazines. He eventually went to the University of Kansas where he gained experience in journalism. After being unable to find a writing job during the Depression, he worked as a mail boy and eventually went into advertising.
Even before the United States entered World War II, Swinehart enlisted in the Royal Air Force and eventually transferred to the U.S. Army Air Corps. That’s where he made 102 trans-Atlantic crossings during the war.
“He lasted a lot longer than anyone I know,” Keith Swinehart II said. “Ninety-seven years. He did fine.”