BUSINESS
04/13/2012 02:46 EDT | Updated 06/13/2012 05:12 EDT

Tom Foord, the founder of Kal Tire, dies at the age of 89 in Vernon, B.C.

VERNON, B.C. - Tom Foord, who turned a local tire store in Vernon, B.C., into an international business worth hundreds of millions of dollars, has died. He was 89.

Foord, one of the founders of Kal Tire, died Thursday in Vernon of complications stemming from heart failure, the company said in a statement released Friday.

Foord and his business partner, Jim Lockhead, started Kal Tire in Vernon in 1953, taking the name from Kalamalka Lake.

The company now operates in 20 countries with 4,600 employees. Many of its overseas operations deal in the giant tires used by vehicles in the mining industry.

Foord stepped down as company CEO more than a decade ago, but the company remains in the family, with his son Robert now serving as president.

Foord told radio station KISS FM in 2007 that he couldn't imagine a better place than Vernon to base his company.

"We've been tempted with the idea of moving our operation to a more central location," he said in the interview.

"It wouldn't happen as long as I was alive, I can tell you that, because while I was born in Saskatchewan, Vernon is really more my heart than anywhere."

Foord was born on May 8, 1922, in Instow, Sask., the oldest of seven children. He met his wife Norah while they both were stationed in Newfoundland with the Royal Canadian Air Force during the Second World War and returned to her hometown of Vernon after getting married in 1944.

Foord and his wife supported several groups and charities over the years, including helping the People Place Society buy land in Vernon for a building that now serves as home to many North Okanagan community organizations.

The city responded to his philanthropy by handing him its Most Valuable People Award in 1989 for his outstanding contribution to the community and its Corporate Good Citizen of the Year Award in 1993.

Foord was also named to the Order of B.C. in 2000.

Foord's wife Norah died in February at the age of 92.

The couple is survived by their five children, who all live in Vernon.