Pioneering boat builder passes

MEDFORD, Ore. – Willie Illingworth, a pioneering figure in the aluminum boat industry died at age 64 in his Medford, Ore., home Tuesday after a two-year bout with brain cancer, the Auburn Journal reported in a story today.

Illingworth built the very first aluminum drift boat in 1971, the newspaper reported. Prior to that, McKenzie-style drifters were primarily made out of wood. Illingworth figured a driftboat fashioned from aluminum would be lighter and easier to row.

The aluminum prototype proved to be a very workable boat, but Illingworth didn’t quit there, the Journal said. He kept tweaking and improving his designs and, eventually, word spread about his new drifters and fishing guides started inquiring about buying his boats.

When demand was high enough, Illingworth took up boat building full time and started selling aluminum driftboats under the name Alumaweld.

In 1977, Illingworth sold his share of Alumaweld and, in 1981, founded the one that still bears his name today: Willie Boats.

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