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Monday, November 6, 2000 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Harold LeMay dies; collected 2,400 vintage cars

The Associated Press

PARKLAND, Pierce County - Harold LeMay, owner of one of the world's largest private car collections, has died at age 81.

During his life, Mr. LeMay, of Parkland, collected nearly 2,400 vintage automobiles, from old Chevys to English double-decker buses, and kept them in 58 buildings across five states. He died of heart failure Saturday (Nov. 4) at St. Clare Hospital in Lakewood.

Mr. LeMay founded Pierce County Ref use in 1943 and built it into LeMay Enterprises, the largest private trash-removal company in Washington state and the 10th-largest in the country.

Tacoma Mayor Brian Ebersole remembered Mr. LeMay as a man who usually wore a plain T-shirt and jeans and could often be seen working on a car.

"Harold was a wonderful, kind, unassuming man who loved his family and his cars - in that order," Ebersole said.

Once a year, Mr. LeMay would open his collection to the public. Even without advertising, the event would draw 10,000 people.

Mr. LeMay's family has started a nonprofit corporation to begin raising money for a proposed $75 million museum for his collection. They hope to open the museum within five years.

"The LeMay collection is a gem in the crown of American automotive history and has the potential to become the most complete and exciting automotive history experience in the world," said Molly Carsten, curator of the Museum of Transportation in St. Louis.

Mr. LeMay owned more than 300 Chevrolets and more than 300 Cadillacs, as well as Fords, Packards, Hudsons, Rolls-Royces, Fraziers, motorcycles, ambulances and limousines. Most of the vehicles are from the 1920s through the 1960s.

His family has not publicly stated how much the collection is worth.

Mr. LeMay also sold cars - six of them, he always said. But he felt so badly about it that he bought three of them back.

He is survived by his wife of 38 years, Nancy; seven children; 19 grandchildren; and seven great-grandchildren.

A public memorial is scheduled for Saturday.

Copyright (c) 2000 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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