Editor’s Note: On Dec. 19, aftermarketNews published a death notice for Bill Kitching, noting incorrectly that he was with Walker Products. Kitching co-founded GB Remanufacturing with his son Michael. We regret the error. To read the complete obituary for Mr. Kitching, see below.
To read the complete obituary for Mr. Kitching, see below.
November 3, 1929 December 12, 2008
Sir Winston Churchill once said, “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” Bill Kitching’s life was as full as it gets because of his giving nature.
Born Nov. 3, 1929 in Blackpool, England, Frederick William “Bill” Kitching grew up the son of a fireman during World War II and often talked about how difficult things were during this period, although never complaining. It wasn’t uncommon to have several air raids each week. The German fighter pilots would empty their unused bombs on the town of Blackpool before returning to Germany. Many of these bombs landed within a couple hundred yards of his parent’s home. Rations were imposed for many years. Lining up for a piece of meat, a loaf of bread, a gallon of milk or even a piece of candy was commonplace. Bill and his buddies used to sneak into the local farmers’ orchards and their hen pens to get extra fruit and eggs for their families.
Kitching joined the British Army when he was 20 and went on to become a Tank Commander for the Royal Dragoons, one of the elite regiments in the British Army. He drove tanks through the Sahara Desert in Egypt when the Egyptians were trying to seize control of the Suez Canal. He used to love telling stories about driving tanks and fighting for what you believed in.
Upon returning from Egypt, Bill and his best friend, Jeff Crawford, began racing speedway motorcycles. Both were very good riders, and became quite successful. Both Bill and Jeff earned their way to the World Championships and rode speedway at Wembly Stadium in London. This love affair with motorcycles and racing is what set the stage for the rest of Kitching’s working career. He was very knowledgeable about engines, and could fix almost anything mechanical.
In 1954, while watching a Blackpool Seagulls hockey game, Bill met his future wife of 52 years, Pat. They courted for a short while before getting married in 1956. Three months after getting married, they boarded the Cunard Ivernia and headed to Canada.
In the early 60’s, Kitching wanted to get away from the cold winters of Toronto. He was looking for a place with a warmer climate. He drove out to California, and never looked back. Bill always spoke fondly of California. He often said that Southern California has the best weather in the world.
Kitching soon landed a job at Brigham St. John, a supplier of import car parts. There, he met a man named Randy St. John. Randy went on to become an icon in the automotive aftermarket a man loved by many a man Bill Kitching never forgot. Randy gave Kitching an opportunity, and he never let him down. Through several mergers and acquisitions, Brigham St. John soon went on to become Beck/Arnley. St. John and Kitching grew the business together, and still today, Beck/Arnley is a major supplier of import car parts. When Kitching’s company, GB Remanufacturing, started supplying fuel injectors to Beck/Arnley in 1998 it was if he had come full-circle. He was very proud to be a supplier to Beck/Arnley.
In 1970, Kitching and a business partner, John McGarry, started an auto parts store in Long Beach, Calif. Mr. Auto Parts. It wasn’t uncommon to have a 72-plus hour work-week. The customers loved dealing with Bill. If he didn’t have a particular part in stock, he sourced it, and made sure that the customer was taken care of. Bill Kitching, Mr. Auto Parts, was also a local legend. Kids from all over Long Beach used to ride their bikes or skateboards to Mr. Auto Parts to get the coolest stickers around. Kitching grew weary of the long hours of retail, and sold all three Mr. Auto Parts stores to his partner in 1978.
In 1978, Kitching went to work for Tomco Auto Products. He soon became vice president/general manager and grew this struggling company into the largest carburetor remanufacturer in the country. It was during this time that Bill Kitching’s eldest son, Grant, got the opportunity to work with his Dad at Tomco for next seven years.
It was in 1986 that Kitching’s youngest son, Michael, was given the biggest blessing that he would soon come to realize. Kitching called up his son in Santa Barbara where he was in his second year at UC Santa Barbara. Kitching asked his son to come home for the weekend to discuss a possible business opportunity. Little did Michael know that that weekend would change his life forever. Having worked at Tomco for many years, Kitching knew the expense associated with one of the parts that is often replaced when rebuilding a carburetor a choke pull-off. He wanted to start a company that would supply carburetor rebuilders throughout the country remanufactured choke pull-offs. This was the beginning of GB Remanufacturing, and the beginning of a 22 year working relationship between Kitching and his son, Michael.
Throughout their times together at GB, Bill and Michael Kitching experienced highs, lows and everything in between. They not only grew a business, they grew what has become a very tight-knit family. The employees at GB Remanufacturing will miss Bill Kitching terribly.
Kitching loved to work. He was respected and adored by all – employees, customers, suppliers and even competitors. He loved to go to work and interact with all the employees in the shop. To him, this was home.
Bill Kitching had a passion for auto racing unmatched by most. He enjoyed most types of racing, but his favorite was open wheel racing, and in particular Formula One. During the Formula One season, he would often get up at 4am on Sunday morning to watch a race live on TV. In the Kitchings’ home, going to the Long Beach Grand Prix with was a tradition. They went every year for almost 30 years. Beers, Brats and “the smell of methanol in the morning,” not to mention burning tires, was second to none. In June of 2005, Kitching and his son traveled to England to witness the Goodwood Festival of Speed. Bill was always fascinated with the Festival of Speed.
Playing golf was Bill’s passion later in life. He was a member of Old Ranch Country Club, El Dorado, Recreation and Lakewood Country Club. Bill loved playing the game with all his friends and “booming the ball out there 200 yards.” He was always so happy to come home and tell stories of how he won $5 dollars in a skins game from his friends. The camaraderie with his “regular” group of guys was special. After a round of golf, they would settle their bets and then try and solve the world’s problems over a nice scotch. “Go easy on the ice” he used to tell the bartender, “Water makes me rusty.” Bill never broke 80 in age or a round of golf, but you could never find a more passionate golfer who truly loved the game. This same passion for golf has carried through to Grant and Michael and their children.
A special place for Kitching was Pueblo Bonito in Nuevo Mazatlan. He and his kids have timeshares at Pueblo Bonito, and he loved everything about the place the beauty, the people, the food.
Grant and Michael share another passion with their Dad barbequing. Bill Kitching loved to BBQ and was the best. He loved to be outdoors cooking while enjoying a nice glass of red wine, or maybe two. You couldn’t beat his barbecued ribs or his bacon cheeseburger with dressing only!
Of all the many things previously mentioned, family was the most important thing to Bill Kitching. He loved and thought the world of his wife, Pat, his sons Grant and Mike, his daughters-in-law Peggy and Lisa, and his grandchildren Andrew, Bryan, Delaney and Ryan.