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August 27, 2012
In 1954, Rhoady R. Lee Jr. and three family members bought Lakeside Gravel Co., a small-time operation in Bellevue with just a handful of ready-mix trucks. In the decades that followed, Lee helped turn the company into one of the largest asphalt pavers in the area.
Lee died last week at his home in Hunt's Point. He was 84 years old.
A memorial service will be held at 10 a.m. today at Sacred Heart Church in Bellevue.
“He was just a wonderful, generous man,” said Tom Gaetz, executive director of the Washington Asphalt Pavement Association. “He has left behind a strong legacy. He will be truly missed in the construction industry, the asphalt industry, the business community, and by his family.”
Up until his death, Lee served as chairman of what is now Lakeside Industries. The company is run by his sons, Tim and Mike.
Rhoady Lee graduated from O'Dea High School in 1946 and earned a commercial science degree in 1950 from Seattle University. After college, he worked for his father, who owned and managed a handful of residential hotels. Later, he landed a job at Boeing.
Tim said his father wasn't happy working at a big company and found a job at North Star Sand & Gravel. He liked the sand and gravel business, and bought Lakeside with his two sisters and father as partners.
The Lees grew the business over five decades, partly by acquiring other family-owned firms along the Interstate 5 corridor from Portland to the Canadian border. The companies were eventually combined to create Lakeside Industries.
Tim said they acted a general contractor before deciding years ago to focus on asphalt paving, which is what they did best. Lakeside now has 650 employees and 13 divisions in Washington, Oregon and Idaho. It has more than 1,000 pieces of equipment.
“I think dad was known and respected for building a company that has great people,” Mike said. “He was really known for his integrity and honesty.”
Tim said his father preferred to teach by example: “He hired the smartest guys he could find and let them run.”
Lakeside's website says it was one of the first Northwest contractors to start an employee safety award program. Lakeside hired its first safety director in the early 1960s, and started a drug-testing program in 1985. In 1993, it was one of the first companies of its kind to create an environmental program and employ a full-time environmental director.
Tim said the company has worked on thousands of jobs over the years. Larger jobs included paving interstates 5 and 90, the state Route 520 floating bridge and runways at Portland International Airport. The company also helped build the original Interstate 90 freeway up to Snoqualmie Pass.
“We are the major player west of the Cascade range, from south of Portland to the Canadian border,” Tim said.
Rhoady Lee served twice as president of what is now the Washington Asphalt Pavement Association.
He was also known for his philanthropy, especially to his alma mater Seattle University, where he met his wife, Jeanne Marie.
Seattle University President Stephen V. Sundborg wrote that Rhoady and Jeanne Marie were instrumental in shaping the school. They supported the Casey Building, the Quad and Upper Mall, Chapel of St. Ignatius, a home for the School of Theology and Ministry in Hunthausen Hall, the Student Center and the William J. Sullivan, S.J. Leadership Scholarship.
Lee was named Seattle University's first Alumnus of the Year in 1985. In 1997, he and Jeanne Marie received honorary doctorates from the university, and in 2007 they were the inaugural recipients of the St. Ignatius Medal.
One building on campus is named for them: the Jeanne Marie and Rhoady Lee Jr. Center for the Arts.
Lee served on the boards of Seattle University and Forest Ridge School, and chaired various capital campaigns.
In his spare time, he flew airplanes, skied, ranched, rode horses and raised cattle in Idaho's Wood River Valley. He also fly fished for decades with family and friends from an old Navy barge he hauled up the Alagnak River in southwest Alaska.
Rhoady Lee is survived by Jeanne Marie; his sister, Sheila Lee; his children, Sharon, Rhoady III, Timothy, Maureen, Mary Pat, Michael and their spouses and partners; and 15 grandchildren and their spouses.
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Benjamin Minnick can be reached by email or by phone at (206) 622-8272.