Bruce Woolpert, chairman, president and CEO of Watsonville-based Graniterock, died in a boating accident on Lake Tahoe over the weekend, his company confirmed Monday.
The 61-year-old Watsonville High graduate had taken his powerboat out on the lake Sunday. A mishap occurred between the boat and a small support skiff, and Woolpert was killed, according to Keith Severson, Graniterock Marketing Services Manager.
Woolpert was alone at the time. Exactly what happened is unclear, and the Coast Guard is investigating the accident, Severson said.
“We’ve just been grappling with all of this today," Severson said.
Placer County Sheriff's Office Capt. Jeff Ausnow told the Tahoe Daily Tribune newspaper that Woolpert's body was found floating near Brockway Shores on the North Shore on Sunday afternoon. He died of an apparent drowning, the newspaper reported.
“He may have fallen from the dingy while mooring the boat,” Ausnow told the Record Courier newspaper in Gardnerville, NV. “There are no signs of foul play.”
The San Fransisco Chronicle quoted sheriff's Sgt. Dave Hunt in a report stating Woolpert had dropped off his son and some family friends at a pier. That was around 2 p.m. near the Brockway Vista condos, where the family had been staying. He attached a dinghy to his boat, then went out to moor the larger boat at a buoy,
Two and a half hours later, Woolpert's body was found facedown on the shore without a life jacket on. The dinghy was floating nearby, according to the Chronicle report.
Woolpert had led Graniterock since the late 80s and was integral to innovations by the family-owned company that made it a model within the business community. It received the 1992 Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award and the 1994 Governor’s Golden State Quality Award.
“The quote we’ve heard frequently is he was just an industry leader," Severson said.
Woolpert is the third generation of his family to lead Graniterock, which was founded in 1900. Under Woolpert's leadership, Graniterock has been a top contributor to the local United Way and other programs that benefit the community.
“He was a big community leader, " Severson said. "He was a big proponent of education improvement locally."
Following Woolpert's unexpected death, the Graniterock Board of Directors and the Woolpert family have implemented the succession plan developed by the company. The first step of the plan to appoint Mark Kaminski, a long-time member of Graniterock’s Board of Directors, as chairman of the board and acting CEO. The Woolpert Family has complete confidence in the current management team and Graniterock team members, and plans to continue operating the company, according to Severson.
Kaminski is retired from his full-time role as President and Chief Executive Officer of Commonwealth Industries, Inc. He is a graduate of Indiana University and Harvard University Graduate School of Business.
Graniterock supplies construction materials including ready-mix concrete, hot mix asphalt, building materials, landscaping supplies, rock, sand and gravel. The Company’s Pavex Construction Division is a significant regional heavy engineering contractor building roadways, airports and private commercial and residential projects. Its employees work in branch locations in South San Francisco, Redwood City, San Jose, Salinas, Monterey, Oakland, Watsonville, Felton, Cupertino and Santa Cruz.
Funeral arrangements for Woolpert are pending.