More about Don Airey...
Don Airey and wife Elaine
Donald Louis Airey was born in 1921 in Albany, New York. As a young man, his first work experience was in the produce industry, making deliveries in a push cart. Eventually, he earned enough money to trade in the push cart for a truck, then several and finally, his own distribution center.
His hard work and determination had made his produce business a thriving success. The fruits of his labor, so to speak, allowed him to put his siblings through college and provide for his family in ways he would never have imagined. It was unlikely they would ever have been given this opportunity absent their brother’s generosity, since they did not come from a wealthy family. Don always wanted to reach out to people to help them, perhaps because he saw so much need while growing up. It was a pattern that would repeat itself over and over again, in everything Don did for the rest of his life.
The produce business continued to grow, but Don knew that something was missing and, while still in his early twenties, he decided to sell the produce business and put one more Airey through school—himself. Don began laying the foundation for his next career and what he believed to be his ultimate calling, and entered the seminary.
Upon graduating, he became a Presbyterian minister and shortly thereafter, moved to Florida after obtaining an appointment as an assistant pastor. While in this position, at the age of 29, Don was stricken with rheumatic fever. As a result, he was bed-ridden and in pain for much of the next few years. In particular, his leg and back pain was often severe, perhaps from the disease, or perhaps from his mobility being limited for so long. For an active, vital young man, it was a terrible blow and a very dark time in his life, even for a man of great faith.
Since his pain played such a large role in his life during this time, Don saw from his own experience how chronic physical problems could lead to a variety of psychological problems, such as depression and anxiety. When he was able to return to the ministry full time, he began to look at his congregation with different eyes. He saw how even relatively minor discomforts can rob people of their quality of life. He also began to investigate alternative methods for coping with his own illness in an effort to improve his mobility and level of physical activity. He would often share his findings with those he counseled. In this regard, he was ahead of his time, but for his own illness, nothing he tried seemed to have any lasting effect on his pain and discomfort.
With the passage of time, Don overcame the worst of his illness and went on to become the chief pastor of his church. Still, he was troubled by chronic leg and back pain, which would continue throughout the many years he would serve in the ministry. Don could not imagine the link that would soon be established between himself and a Romanian-born therapist and orthopedic shoe designer who was working on the very thing that Don had spent so much of his life searching for.
In the late fifties, only a few years before his retirement from his second career, Don chanced upon a salesman marketing a rather curious looking device from Canada to doctors and therapists here in the states. With a healthy skepticism but still the same open mind with which he had investigated other products in the past, Don bought his first pair of Alznner® arch supports. Over time, his leg and back pain diminished and his confidence and belief in the product grew. After several months, it became very apparent to Don that what might just be a good arch support for some was nothing short of a miracle for him.
It is perhaps ironic that Don’s discovery of the Alznner® arch support occurred by chance, given he had traveled internationally, including Canada, searching for alternative treatments for the symptoms he suffered after his bout with rheumatic fever. Canada was very receptive to such approaches and was greatly influenced by Asian medicine and reflexology, which was also of interest to the inventor of the arch support that now had a true believer in Don Airey.
In 1980, upon retiring from the ministry, he once again crossed paths with the Alznner® family, when he encountered a dealer marketing the product in Florida. By this time, he had long since adjusted to the supports that he had obtained two years earlier and was experiencing significant relief from his leg and back pain. There was no doubt that he was very impressed with what the Alznner® arch supports had done for him, but he was quite surprised to find himself seriously thinking about becoming a dealer of the product. Knowing Don, it was likely he was thinking about what they could do for the thousands of people he came to know over the years.
Even after Don had retired, he had continued his role as a counselor and advisor to his former congregation as well as those outside of it. By now, no one he spoke with ever got away without hearing about the Alznner® arch support. With so many of those who followed up on his recommendation helped so much, Don decided the matter was settled. He contacted the Canadian firm that was manufacturing the support for the inventor and asked to become a dealer. After some discussion, which likely included the fact that he was proposing to begin a stressful, demanding venture when he should enjoying retirement, the deal was done.
It was true that Don was older, but he approached his new endeavor with the same level of enthusiasm that he had brought to his push cart, and he was not without a plan. First, he decided to travel the country, meeting people and introducing them to the Alznner® arch support. To accomplish this, he purchased a motor home and moved to Dallas, Texas, so his dealership could be centrally located. His relocation was also intended to assist the second part of his plan, which was to attract a following of his own dealers to spread the word about this amazing product. Since many of the people he introduced to the Alznner® support became so excited about it and wanted to share it with others, this course seemed obvious to him.
During the next five years, he worked tirelessly to spread the word. In that time, he had gathered a loyal following of dealers who represented the product from coast to coast. By this time, he had acquired the rights to be sole distributor in the United States. Although he realized a success beyond anything he had anticipated, it created a problem, the solution of which would require, appropriately enough, an act of faith.
As the demand Don created for the Alznner® supports increased, the manufacturer increasingly fell behind on deliveries, often leaving him in very difficult situations, which threatened to undermine his credibility with his customers and dealers alike. After several frustrating months which threatened to undo the work of the last five years, Don decided he would try to buy the manufacturer and all rights to the Alznner® arch support. His family and friends were distressed at the thought of Don, now approaching seventy, taking on a challenge of this magnitude, but after more than a year of difficult negotiations, an agreement was reached and in 1987, Don became the proud manufacturer of the Alznner® arch support. The cost, in terms of Don’s modest means, was enormous. He put virtually every penny of his retirement nest egg and almost all of the assets of the company into the purchase.
The next several years were stressful, probably more so for his family than Don. They had joined him in the company to help him accomplish this very difficult transition. In 1995, after several difficult, but increasingly successful years, Don finally decided his work was done and decided to step down, turning over day-to-day business operations to the rest of the family.
Don passed away in 1996, one year after retiring from his third and final career. He lived his life exactly as he wanted, helping others whenever he could. We, his sons and daughters, grandsons and granddaughters, salute his dedication to this principle and appreciate fully, that to be able to earn a living helping others is a great blessing.
With the assistance of our friends and colleagues, we will continue his work.