David Oreck:Still keeping busy at age 91 - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

David Oreck: Still keeping busy at age 91

Our crew flew to his estate in a private plane, landing near his home. Source: WLBT Our crew flew to his estate in a private plane, landing near his home. Source: WLBT
That eagerness to work began shortly after high school, when Oreck left for New York City.   Source: WLBT That eagerness to work began shortly after high school, when Oreck left for New York City. Source: WLBT
At age 40, because he wanted to do something different, Oreck quit that business and started his own, eventually introducing a product for which he would become universally known; the Oreck Vacuum.   Source: WLBT At age 40, because he wanted to do something different, Oreck quit that business and started his own, eventually introducing a product for which he would become universally known; the Oreck Vacuum. Source: WLBT
"I've been flying for 70 years, and I started a little bit before World War II," Oreck said,   Source: WLBT "I've been flying for 70 years, and I started a little bit before World War II," Oreck said, Source: WLBT
The 91-year-old entrepreneur is fond of saying bad luck is sometimes a person's good luck in disguise.   Source: WLBT The 91-year-old entrepreneur is fond of saying bad luck is sometimes a person's good luck in disguise. Source: WLBT
POPLARVILLE, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

Spend five minutes with David Oreck and you learn very quickly: age is just a number.  

"There's always things," said Oreck. "You gotta look ahead, and find new objectives. I think it keeps your juices going, and there's so much to be done, so much that could be done." Oreck said.  

That eagerness to work began shortly after high school, when Oreck left for New York City.  

"I got a job, and ended up with a company that was the largest wholesaler of appliances in the world. And I ended up running the company," said Oreck.  

That company was RCA. While he worked for the appliance giant, he also got the chance to help introduce the first lines of microwave ovens and black-and-white televisions.  

"In some respects, it was fortunate that I did that because had I gone to college, I'd have come out about the same time as everybody else," Oreck said. "This way, I got an opportunity to be involved in the beginning, the introduction of these products, TV and all that. So I learned a lot."  

At age 40, because he wanted to do something different, Oreck quit that business and started his own, eventually introducing a product for which he would become universally known: the Oreck Vacuum.  

Originally, it was a Whirlpool product, and didn't perform well. Once Oreck turned that around, Whirlpool reacted by getting rid of him, and his product, because Sears management said it felt threatened when the Whirlpool vacuum became more popular than the retailer's own products.  

"Here I was on the verge of something big, but that was the best break I had because it compelled me to go in under my own name, which was about the only name I found that wasn't already taken," he said.  

The 91-year-old entrepreneur is fond of saying bad luck is sometimes a person's good luck in disguise.  Now that name is known all over the world, in part, because Oreck's commercials have become part of American pop culture.  

"Everywhere I go, people say, ‘You look familiar. Who are you?' So I remind them occasionally," Oreck said, smiling. "It's always nice to hear, ‘Your product, I love it.' It's very gratifying. There are probably 10 million people today using Oreck vacuums, which is pretty nice."  

Oreck sold the company ten years ago, and ended up spending more time with his first love, airplanes.

"I've been flying for 70 years, and I started a little bit before World War II," Oreck said, then referring to his age, "not the Civil War."  

His collection of planes – including a Staggerwing – sit inside a hangar not far from his home. When asked which was his favorite, Oreck said with a smile, "Which is your favorite child?"  

All of the planes are pristine and ready to fly, Oreck said, because he flies them often.   It's one of the perks of having a 2,000-foot runway a stone's throw from his home.  

"To see [these planes] is one thing," he said. "To see them flying is something else. And to be in them when they're flying, that's also nice."  

Oreck acknowledges he'll eventually have to sell them because of his age. Those advancing years haven't stopped the man from working, though.  

"I do not believe in retirement. I think that's the worst thing in the world; mentally, physically," he said. "I have a little company in North Carolina that makes candles of all things, and I have some business interests in New Orleans. So it keeps me off the street, and I'm glad to be busy."  

These days, he splits time between work in New Orleans and an extended weekend at his 600-acre farm near Poplarville with his wife. Some might ask, why live in Mississippi?   "I love the South. I love New Orleans, where I've spent a lot of time," Oreck said. "While I've lived in many places in the country, this is a beautiful area."  

The company's Mississippi connection goes a bit further. At one time, Oreck Vacuums were manufactured at a 375,000-square-foot facility in Long Beach. That changed when Hurricane Katrina came ashore in 2005. Oreck said the facility escaped major damage, but the city did not.  

"Management of the company at that time decided that the threat of a second Katrina was such that they didn't want to be there, so they moved the factory up to Tennessee," Oreck said.  

Oreck and his wife chose to stay in the area, continuing to make improvements to the farm for years, renovating the stable and other facilities that had fallen into disrepair from the previous owner.   That included a new home for Oreck and his wife Jan, situated on a peninsula which juts onto the farm's hundred-acre lake.

Construction crews completed the home last year. Perhaps that's indicative of the kind of work ethic Oreck has continually set for himself, and why he still works just about every day.  

"I've never felt that I've made it or that I've accomplished what I've set out to do," Oreck said. "I've never felt that way."  

At the same time, the entrepreneur from a rural Minnesota town said he hopes his legacy is something that transcends the material things collected over the years.  

"I think in the final analysis, a measure of a man's worth in the relatively short life we have on this planet basically is what favorable impact you've had on others," Oreck said. "When I think about it, in the Oreck Corp., we've had 1400 employees, millions of people who use the product and swear by it, love it. I can't help but feel that makes me the proudest."

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