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Max B. Swisher


Max Boothe Swisher, 87, of Warrensburg, passed away peacefully Oct. 30, 2015, surrounded by his family.

Max was born April 19, 1928, in rural Southeast Johnson County, Mo. He was the son of Henry Samuel Swisher and Blanche Boothe Swisher. Max was the youngest of three children with two brothers, Jean Edwin Swisher, deceased and Ray W. Swisher who survives.

Max grew up on the family farm during the depression, learning all types of skills from both his father and mother. His mother gardened and raised poultry while his father farmed, worked in a sawmill, fixed and traded farm equipment and ran threshing machines and crews. Max learned early what hard work and long hours were. He will be remembered for his generosity, extraordinary mechanical design abilities, business savvy, quick wit, a great sense of humor and farm smart approach to life.

Max attended country grade school until sixth grade and then attended Leeton grade school where he continued through high school graduation. He attended Central Missouri State College in 1946-47, taking industrial and mechanical classes. Max then took a job with Leonard Goodall at Goodall Manufacturing in Warrensburg.

Max became very interested in the lawnmower business and decided to build a lawnmower incorporating his ideas in the machine shop at his family’s farm.The first mower he developed and patented was a self-propelled rotary walk-behind mower with unique maneuvering capabilities. A few years later, he developed and patented a riding mower incorporating similar maneuverability and coined the description “zero-turning-radius”. Both his zero-turn mowers were first to market and decades before their concepts became the industry standard with all major mower manufacturers now offering versions of the concept. Today, the “Zero-Turning-Radius” term is used throughout the entire mower industry and represents a major category in total mower sales. Max pioneered several other products including pull behind ATV mowers, convertible string trimmer mowers, solar composters, and more.

In 1951, Max was drafted into the Army during the Korean War, serving his two years at Aberdeen Proving Grounds, Md., where he served as a cadre leader. On June 9, 1951, he married Lorena Pryor of Warrensburg in Havre de Grace, Md.

In August of 1952, after returning from Maryland, Max incorporated Swisher Mower and Machine Co. and purchased the buildings that housed the former Roseland Meat Packing Co. at 333 E. Gay in Warrensburg. He moved the operation to this location and operated there until moving to the industrial park in 1999. The company sold products around the world and employed over 600 people at its peak.

In 1968, Max donated SkyHaven airport to the university, which birthed the aviation and other related programs. UCM honored Max with renaming the airport after him in 1993. In the 1980s he donated the Hickory Hills waterworks to water district No. 3, where it has been since used as a platform to provide rural water throughout southeast Johnson County.

As a serial entrepreneur and businessman, Max started or helped start several businesses and consulted many aspiring inventors and entrepreneurs. He thoroughly enjoyed hearing from aviation graduates as their careers progressed. He also enjoyed hearing from employees past and present, particularly the impromptu one-to-one chats in his office.

Max was a board member of the Chamber of Commerce for several years, as well as a member of the American Legion and Elks Club. He served as a member of the Warrensburg City Council from 1980 to 1986.

Max is survived by his wife of 64 years, Lorena Pryor Swisher; daughter, Marcy Erickson and husband, Dick; son, Jerry Swisher and wife, Cindy; and son, Wayne Swisher and wife, Kelly; four grandchildren, Nicki (Jason) Key, Sam (Katie) Swisher, Ann (Chris) Novosel and Dane Erickson; and two great-grandchildren.

Funeral services will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 7, at Sweeney-Phillips & Holdren Funeral Home in Warrensburg, with the Rev. Bill Runyon officiating and visitation services beginning at 1 p.m. Pallbearers will be Sam Swisher, Jason Key, Chris Novosel, Sean Kavanaugh, Dane Erickson and Dick Erickson. Honorary pallbearers will be Bob Grainger, JC Myers, Clyde Fleener, Russ Crim, Don Downing, Kenny Jones, Dan Lockhart, Frank Summit, Bill Hash, Jim Houx, Gene Jaeger and Jack Thompson.

Burial will follow at Warrensburg Memorial Gardens with full military honors.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made tothe Warrensburg Food Center or Warrensburg Senior Center Home Meal Delivery Program and both can be left at the funeral home.

(Paid Obituary)