Aerial Lift Legend Ray Pitman Remembered | Construction News

Raymond Floyd Pitman Sr., 89, passed away in early May. He was instrumental in designing and building equipment that lifted people and materials. He started Pitman Manufacturing, which conceived the Snorkel fire truck and aircraft deicers, as well as the RO Corp. and Pioneer Engineering. 

According to his obituary: "Ray was proud to be an American and of his service to his country. His life was the epitome of the American dream. Ray was the eternal optimist and his glass was always half full. His leadership and motivational skills were instrumental in developing and leading many businesses. He shared his optimism and wisdom with those he mentored and helped throughout his career.

"Ray had a life changing experience during the summer when he was seventeen. His parents bought him a one- way ticket to central Kansas to work in the fields during harvest time. There he learned how to scoop wheat and most importantly, he developed a self-sufficiency which served him all the rest of his life. He was drafted into WWII shortly after graduation and served in the South Pacific Theater with the 873rd Engineer Aviation Battalion. In the Army he learned about hydraulics, which led to his life-long passion for designing and manufacturing construction and utility equipment. He started Pitman Construction Company, which specialized in underground utility work. This was Ray's fancy way of saying he was a ditch digger.

"As the company grew, he designed and built equipment to make his work more efficient. He next founded Pitman Manufacturing, which designed, built and sold this equipment. It was here that a new industry was spawned. He designed the 'cherry picker,' boom trucks, and utility trucks. The Snorkel fire truck and aircraft deicers were also conceived by the group at Pitman Manufacturing. Ray had numerous patents. Ray also started RO Corporation and Pioneer Engineering, both built equipment that Ray designed. In 1993 on the occasion of its 100 year anniversary, the Equipment Manufacturers Institute honored him as one of the 100 most significant contributors to the mechanization of the construction and agriculture industries."

Long-time friend Art Moore met Ray in the third grade and maintained a life-long friendship. "He and [Ray's wife] Betty visited me when I was living in Houston," Moore said. "He was showing me snapshots of his pipeline Contracting  Co. and a 'boom truck' he had built. I asked him to loan me pictures of the boom truck and did a market study on it. I called him and told him there wasn't anything like it and that I thought he might want to manufacture it. He said 'Why don't you move back to Kansas City, and we will give it a try?' I moved back in January 1950. This was the beginning of Pitman Manufacturing and ultimately Snorkel Fire Equipment Company which I started in 1959."