Thursday, Feb. 26, 2004 | 11:18 a.m.
George M. Pardee Jr., a Las Vegas pioneer who built his family-owned business into one of the largest home construction companies in the West, died this week.
Pardee died of prostate cancer Monday in San Diego. He was 87.
George Pardee Jr. formed Pardee Construction Co. in February 1946 with his father, George M. Pardee Sr., a designer and builder working in Beverly Hills, Calif., and his brother, Hoyt Pardee. A second brother, J. Douglas Pardee, joined the company two years later.
The family-owned company, with financial backer Gifford Phillips, entered the Las Vegas market in 1952.
"They were real pioneers in turning dirt roads into communities," Richard Lee, a local real estate expert, said. "There's a lot of people who grew up in a Pardee Home in Las Vegas."
The company's first big venture in Southern Nevada, which at the time had a population of slightly less 50,000 people, was the Forever House model, John Pardee, one of George Pardee Jr.'s sons, said.
"They were cinderblock homes that were very small by today's standards," John Pardee, who does not work for Pardee Homes, said.
The homes were sold to World War II veterans for $1 down. The cinderblock homes, built near Sahara Avenue and Maryland Parkway, featured steel doors and rock roofs, he said.
At least one thing hasn't changed in the more than 50 years Pardee has built in the Las Vegas area -- the homes in that first development were sold out opening weekend.
John Pardee said the company had advertised in a Wednesday evening newspaper that sales for the homes would begin the following Saturday. Before sales began that day, a line had formed and the homes were sold out that weekend, he said.
Although Weyerhaeuser Co., one of the largest global producers of lumber, acquired Pardee Construction in 1969, the Pardees ran the home building division until they retired. George Pardee Jr. worked at the company until he retired in 1981 at age 65. His two brothers retired in 1984.
Pardee Homes was one of the original builders in Las Vegas, along with Lewis Homes and American West, Dennis Smith, president of research firm Home Builders Research Inc., said. In both Las Vegas and Southern California, Pardee focused on building affordable homes for first-time home buyers.
Pardee Homes remains one of the top home builders in the Las Vegas Valley. Last year the company was the area's fifth-largest builder and closed escrow on 1,140 homes.
John Pardee said the fact that Pardee Homes still builds and is successful in the valley is a tribute to his father.
"They just had a good management style and hired good people and conducted business in an ethical way," he said.
George Pardee Jr. and his brothers attributed their 60 years of success to a policy that all business decisions taken by the partnership had to be unanimous. The brothers remained business partners and friends all of George Pardee Jr.'s life.
The Boy Scouts of America was one of the strongest influences on George Pardee Jr.'s life and character, family members said. He joined the Boy Scouts on his 12th birthday in 1928 and remained a registered Scout for the rest of his life.
Friends and family said Pardee conducted his life according to the Boy Scout oath. He also was passionate about boating. He had owned boats since he was 18, when he had built a 15-foot sailboat. His last yacht was an 85-foot power cruiser.
George Pardee Jr.'s 25-year marriage to Marian Andrew, with whom he had four children, ended in 1965.
George Pardee Jr. married Katherine Mae Newton in 1967. They were married for 35 years, during which time they took a 30-day trip around the globe. Katherine Pardee died in February 2002.
In addition to his son John, Pardee is survived anothoer son, Neal, of Los Angeles; daughters, Anne Koch of Shelburne, Vt. and Carolyn Beahrs, of Darien, Conn; brothers Hoyt Pardee of Los Angeles and J. Douglas Pardee of Rancho Santa Fe, Calif.; and nine grandchildren.
A memorial service is scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday at the Founders Chapel, University of San Diego, followed immediately by a reception. The family requests in lieu of flowers, donations be sent to the University of San Diego in memory of George Pardee Jr. or to a favorite charity.