Mary Anderson, an outdoors enthusiast who co-founded the sporting goods and camping equipment company REI, died Monday, March 27, 2017, according to REI. She was 107.
Anderson and her husband, Lloyd Anderson, founded Recreational Equipment Inc. in Seattle in 1938. Her husband had purchased an imported ice ax after becoming disappointed with the quality of a cheaper but inferior domestic ax. The experience led to the creation of a cooperative that enabled fellow outdoor enthusiasts to buy top-quality climbing gear at a reasonable cost.
Since then, REI has become a consumer-oriented chain of stores that sell clothing and family camping equipment, although REI still sells gear for climbers and backpackers.
Mary Gaiser was born Dec. 7, 1909, in Washington’s Yakima Valley. She moved to Seattle after studying education, teaching in Seattle’s public schools until the mid-1930s.
After marrying in 1932, Mary and Lloyd Anderson joined the Mountaineers, a nonprofit organization that teaches people skills “to explore the outdoors safely and responsibly,” notes the history section of the Mountaineers website.
Eventually, Mary Anderson retired from teaching and worked for the cooperative full-time. She retired from REI in 1968.
She was preceded in death by her husband of 68 years, who was 98 when he died in 2000.
Thomas Vogl, the CEO of the Mountaineers organization who worked at REI from 2006 to 2012, offered a tribute to Mary Anderson’s legacy on the Mountaineers website.
“Even at nearly 100 years old, she was a remarkably strong and vibrant person, sharp-witted and full of life,” he wrote. “Mary will be missed by The Mountaineers community yet the impact of her tireless commitment to connecting people with the outdoors is still felt today.”