Prominent Vancouver businessman Ed Pietz, co-founder of the original Red Lion Hotel chain who also developed property in the region for years, died on Tuesday. He was 90.
James Hamilton, a Vancouver attorney representing the Pietz family, said Wednesday that the family was asking for privacy. Hamilton, who did legal work for Ed Pietz for many years, said Pietz was a visionary who “saw ways around the obstacles.”
But he wasn’t all about business, Hamilton said. He was generous and committed to his family, too.
As a young boy, Pietz moved with his family from Canada to Clark County, according to a biographical summary provided by Hamilton to The Columbian. Pietz served in the U.S. Coast Guard during World War II. Eventually, he went into the construction business, building homes and commercial buildings.
Red Lion Inns was founded in Vancouver in 1957 when Pietz and business partner Tod McClaskey bought the 89-room Thunderbird Motor Inn near Portland’s Memorial Coliseum. By the time the Vancouver businessmen sold the privately held company in 1985, it employed thousands of workers at 56 properties in nine states.
A New York investment banking firm reportedly paid $600 million for the company, which had become the largest privately owned hotel chain west of the Mississippi River.
McClaskey, who died eight years ago at the age of 91, and Pietz worked tirelessly together and built a strong friendship. In a February 2003 obituary of McClaskey published by The Columbian, Pietz told the newspaper: “I have lost a part of me. We were just a couple farm boys that started out with nothing. Today, you have to be rich to even start.”
Of his business partnership with McClaskey, Pietz said: “Most everything we did worked. We made quick judgments and didn’t sit around the office and do a lot of talking. We were like brothers — didn’t fight very often.”
After selling the hotel chain, Pietz briefly operated Raffles Hotels and Inns. After leaving the hospitality industry, he moved into real estate development.
He built or remodeled many buildings in the region, including the Esther Street Professional Building, the Pacific Tower, and Running Spring Condominiums and Vintage Oaks Condominiums. He was also a partner in the development of the multi-million-dollar Mill Plain One office complex, a set of upscale, green glass and chrome buildings off Mill Plain Boulevard at Northeast Park Plaza Drive.
Pietz is survived by his wife of 69 years, Gloria; his daughter, Suzanne; his son, Lon; eight grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren.
Pietz will be interred at the Ridgefield Cemetery in a private ceremony. A public memorial will be held at 3 p.m. Sunday in the Mount St. Helens Ballroom of the Red Lion Jantzen Beach, 909 N.E. Hayden Island Drive in Portland.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in the name of Edward H. Pietz to the Ray Hickey Hospice House, P.O. Box 1600, Vancouver, WA 98668.