KME founder John “Sonny” Kovatch Jr. passed away at his home in Nesquehoning, Pa., Saturday Jan. 29.
Kovatch, 85, created several companies, but was best known as the owner of the fire truck manufacturer, Kovatch Mobile Equipment Corporation, according to reports from the Hazelton Standard-Speaker.
He was known as a down-to-earth person who often spent time at work close to his employees. He would walk through his business dressed in casual clothes instead of a suit and tie, according to Hazelton’s Fire Chief Donald Leshko.
The Kovatch family met Leshko shortly after his father’s death while he was still attending high school. Leshko said working for Kovatch helped shape his life and remembered him as “a pillar of society” that kept jobs in the area and employed many local residents through the years.
“Sonny” and his brother Joseph started a small auto repair shop after he returned home from World War II. The business grew steadily, taking the Kovatches into the vehicle manufacturing industry where they received large military contracts.
They began to build fire apparatus in the mid-1980s, and the company soon became the largest family-held fire truck manufacturer in North America.
Kovatch’s son, John J. Kovatch III, current president and CEO of KME, said, “My father was a true American success story. He loved what he did and had a passion to build a legacy that will continue to positively affect our lives for generations to come.”