Everett’s E.A. Nord Co., which grew to become the world’s largest maker of paneled wood doors, as it looked in 1929 at 2202 Hewitt Ave. Bob Nord, longtime chairman and president of the company, died May 3. His father, Eric A. Nord, founded the company in 1924. It later moved to 300 W. Marine View Drive. (Everett Public Library photo, J.A. Juleen Collection)

Everett’s E.A. Nord Co., which grew to become the world’s largest maker of paneled wood doors, as it looked in 1929 at 2202 Hewitt Ave. Bob Nord, longtime chairman and president of the company, died May 3. His father, Eric A. Nord, founded the company in 1924. It later moved to 300 W. Marine View Drive. (Everett Public Library photo, J.A. Juleen Collection)

Robert Nord, longtime CEO of Everett door company, dies

Robert Nord was the scion of a family whose business was once among Everett’s biggest employers. By the 1960s, the E.A. Nord Co. was the world’s largest maker of wood panel doors.

Nord, who headed the company his father, Eric Adolf Nord, founded, served his country and community. He loved travel, history and his family.

Robert William “Bob” Nord died May 3. Born Dec. 11, 1921, in Anacortes, he spent most of his life in Everett. A graduate of Everett High School and the University of Washington, Nord was a World War II veteran who served in Italy.

His father, who founded the E.A. Nord Co. in 1924, was a boy in 1903 when his parents emigrated from Sweden.

Robert Nord “was an amazing gentleman. He always reached out to people,” said Pam McClure, his daughter.

Nord is also survived by his son, Scott Nord, son-in-law Tony McClure, seven grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his wife of 47 years, Bette Nord, who died in 1997; daughter Patricia Arness; and older brother Russell Nord, who was killed in the Battle of Saipan in 1944.

Pam McClure, of Mukilteo, recalled when her father and grandfather worked together at the company that came to be known as Nord Door. By 1967, according to Herald archives, the Nord company had 800 employees. It was acquired in 1986 by Jeld-Wen Inc., which closed the door factory in 2005.

“He was working at the company when Grandpa passed away. Grandpa was CEO, Dad was general manager,” McClure said. Eric Nord died in 1976.

In its early days, Everett Public Library collections show, the E.A. Nord Co. was a storefront on downtown Everett’s Hewitt Avenue. In the 1920s, it sold paint, glass, doors and building supplies. By 1946, the company had far outgrown its original home. It eventually acquired 23 acres at West Marine View Drive on the northwest Everett waterfront.

In the mid-1960s, the facilities included five acres under one roof, with lumber-drying kilns and a factory that kept two shifts working. Nord’s stile-and-rail panel doors were made of western hemlock and Douglas fir.

“Businesses down there were influential,” McClure said. “The Nord company had relationships with George Weyerhaeuser and U.S. senators.”

The company’s last years in some ways reflected labor strife that marked the Everett waterfront’s early history.

According to Herald archives, Jeld-Wen Inc. bought Nord in 1986 for $15 million after a bitter strike lasting more than two years. The strike ousted Local 1054 of the Lumber Production and Industrial Workers union, according to a 1992 Herald article. During the strike, about 60 area locals joined in a 1983 march that was reported to be the largest labor demonstration in Everett in 70 years.

The 2005 closing of Jeld-Wen, which operated in Everett without a union, cost about 160 workers their jobs. The property, now owned by W&W Everett Investments, LLC, is a state Department of Ecology cleanup site. Another company, CEMEX, has leased part of the site to operate an asphalt batch plant.

McClure said her father retired when Jeld-Wen took over. His community involvement included serving on the Everett General Hospital Board from 1979 to 1988. He was a longtime member, deacon and elder at Everett’s First Presbyterian Church. He was active in the Republican Party.

Nord was an enthusiastic member and booster of the YMCA of Snohomish County. “He exercised at the Y every single day,” McClure said. “He swam until he was 91.” In a video he made for the Y, Bob Nord said his daily regime included an hour of swimming and a half-hour on a treadmill. “If you can fit it into your life, physical activity is the best thing you can do,” Nord said in the video.

McClure said her father also loved traveling. He had been to Sweden many times to see his ancestral homeland. He had been to dozens of countries, and especially liked Thailand. McClure treasures memories of vacations with her dad at Lake Chelan and in Hawaii. On one incredible trip, she and her husband flew with him from New York to Paris on a Concorde supersonic jet.

Her father wanted to experience the world, she said.

In a recent letter addressed to “Grandpa,” Mark McClure, one of Nord’s grandsons, shared happy memories of a Sweden trip, Christmases and fishing with Nord. “You were always concerned about others before yourself. Your love was unconditional,” he wrote.

“He was an example for our family,” Pam McClure said. “He is going to live on as a role model to us.”

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; jmuhlstein@heraldnet.com.

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