Del Beutler, an enterprising sheet metal worker who founded one of the country’s biggest heating and air conditioning contractors, died Dec. 21 at 93, his family said.
Mr. Beutler returned home to Carmichael after serving two years in the Navy as a sheet metal specialist during World War II. He worked in a local sheet metal shop before studying heating systems and starting his own business in the garage at his home on Stanley Avenue in 1947.
“The county tried to close him down because he wasn’t in a commercial area, and the neighbors objected,” said his son Gary. “They said, ‘Hey, he just got out of the Navy and he’s just trying to make a living. Leave him alone.’ ”
Sensing an opportunity for growth, Mr. Beutler built his business installing heating and duct systems in new residential neighborhoods and commercial developments that sprung up during the postwar housing boom. He established business and personal ties with developers who went on to be leaders in the construction industry, including Joe Benvenuti and Buzz Oates.
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In the 1950s, he traveled east to learn about air conditioning and returned to install some of the first modern cooling units in Northern California homes. He experimented with ways to improve the efficiency of air conditioning in harsh Sacramento summers, including new fans and insulation.
“Not many people bought air conditioning back then because it was very expensive,” his son said. “He helped find ways to put it in new homes.”
With an emphasis on innovation, Beutler Heating and Air Conditioning became a national leader in the heating and air conditioning industry. Mr. Beutler sold the business to his son and retired in 1981.
“He really left people alone to do their jobs and be innovative,” said Gary Beutler, chairman of Beutler Corp. “He respected his employees and let them be who they were.”
The son of a railroad worker, Del Simmons Beutler was born June 10, 1920, in Montpelier, Idaho, and moved with his family to the Sacramento area. He graduated from San Juan High School, became a sheet metal apprentice and worked at McClellan Air Force Base before World War II.
He married Norma Dorothy “Doady” Dickson in 1940 and had two children. He was active in Masonic organizations in his early years and donated his services as a sheet metal worker to build a prominent copper dome atop Carmichael Presbyterian Church on Marconi Avenue.
Despite his business success, Mr. Beutler pursued simple pleasures and spent time with his family. Besides dancing and traveling with his wife in the United States, he enjoyed golfing and bowling. He was a gifted storyteller who played the piano and wrote music and lyrics for songs.
“You see the Beutler trucks all over town, and it’s amazing that he wasn’t in the spotlight in that way himself,” said former Sacramento County Sheriff Lou Blanas, a longtime family friend.
“He was a very unassuming man who just worked hard and was dedicated to his family. He was always smiling and telling jokes.”
Mr. Beutler was predeceased by his wife in 1989 and by his daughter Judy Seibert in 2008. In addition to his son, he is survived by four grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
A celebration of life is set for 2 p.m. Jan. 3 at Northridge Country Club. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the American Cancer Society.