William "Bill" Jakobsen, a lover of fast cars who rose to become president and chief executive of defense contractor Lourdes Industries, has died. He was 80.
Jakobsen, of Fort Salonga, died on June 30 after a two-year battle against throat cancer.
Born in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, to a Danish-born father and a Lithuanian mother, he grew up in Richmond Hill, Queens, delivering papers and groceries to help his parents make ends meet.
After attending Holy Child Jesus Catholic Academy in Richmond Hill, Jakobsen went to Manhattan High School of Aviation Trades, where he was elected president of his class.
Following graduation in 1958, he began working for defense contractor Aeroflex Inc. and taking night classes at C.W. Post College (now LIU Post), where he earned a mechanical engineering degree in 1970.
After being laid off by Aeroflex, Jakobsen landed a job in 1972 as chief engineer at Lourdes Industries, a maker of pneumatic, hydraulic and fuel components, then based in Farmingdale.
At Lourdes Industries, founded in 1954, he spearheaded an effort to diversify beyond defense work, leading to the creation of a new unit to lay data lines for AT&T and New York Telephone (now Verizon).
As part of that initiative, Jakobsen invented patented devices that use air pressure to prevent water from corroding underground telecom lines.
Today, manufacturer Lourdes Industries Inc. has 53 employees at its headquarters in Hauppauge and 27 in Tucson, Arizona.
Lourdes' devices, many used for fluid control and monitoring, have been used in commercial airlines, the F-14 jet fighter and the space shuttle. The company's customers include major defense contractors Raytheon, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman.
Sister company Lourdes Industries LLC, which shares the same management and headquarters, employs 78 people who work with Verizon to lay high-speed data lines in Manhattan.
In 1983, Jakobsen was promoted to executive vice president, and he began the process of buying out the original partners of the company as he helped manage the business with founder George G. Powell.
After Powell died in 2001, Jakobsen took control of the company, remaining at the helm until his death.
He is succeeded as CEO by his daughter, Laurie Jakobsen, and as president by Peter McKenna, a veteran Lourdes executive.
"Bill would proudly tell people he was never retiring," said his daughter. "He always introduced himself as a mechanical engineer, and he was a longstanding member of the Society of Professional Engineers."
She said her father also was known for "his dapper fashion sense" and his taste for fast cars, including Corvettes, Chargers, Challengers and Mustangs.
Jakobsen was predeceased by his wife of 51 years, Lois Kessler Jakobsen, as well as two infant children; his parents, Svend and Anna; and his sisters, Dorothy Copeland, Irene Wessel, Phyllis Karen Jakobsen and Rita Koszalka.
In addition to his daughter, Jakobsen is survived by his granddaughter, Rebecca.
Jakobsen will be interred at the Queen of All Saints Cemetery in Central Islip.
Citing the Jakobsens' affection for Montauk, where they had several homes at Rough Riders Landing, the family directed memorial tributes to the Nature Conservancy to support its work on Long Island.