AKRON (June 28, 2010)—Dirt Gripz Inc. owner and tire industry veteran William Eaton died June 22 at age 76 after battling cancer.
Eaton worked more than 20 years in various positions for the former Firestone Tire & Rubber Co. and 18 years with the former General Tire Co. He retired in 1994 as vice president of dealer relations and private brands for General.
After his retirement, Eaton helped market the Parnelli Jones private brand tire line for Progressive Customer Wheel in Riverside, Calif., building on a longtime friendship he had developed with 1963 Indianapolis 500 champion Parnelli Jones.
After Progressive exited the tire business, Eaton and his wife Bonnie established Akron-based Dirt Gripz Inc. to market the tire brand. The new company launched the Parnelli Jones Dirt Grip on/off road light truck tire in 1999 and for the past decade marketed the off-road tire line manufactured, until recently, by the now-defunct Denman Tire Corp.
Besides his wife, Eaton is survived by children, Greg (Terry) Eaton, Laura (Fred) Weygandt, David (Christy) Eaton, Sean (Julie) Solon, Kristie Hart and Shannon (Derek) Schwartzenburg; and 15 grandchildren.