Longtime industry executive Katherine Z. Luecker passed away Jan. 27 after a yearlong battle with ovarian cancer. She was 55 years old. In addition to serving as a principal in commercial pool supplies firm Lincoln Aquatics, Luecker also was a co-founder of the Association of Aquatic Professionals.

“Kathie was a gift to the aquatics profession,” said Juliene Hefter, AOAP’s executive director/CEO.

Luecker began her aquatics career shortly after graduating from Oregon State University, when she joined Lincoln, the family business, initially as a sales manager overseeing the Pacific Northwest region.

In 1987, she and her brother, Charlie Luecker, bought the company from their father, William Luecker. She later moved to the corporate office in Concord, Calif. as vice president.

In 2006, the Lueckers also acquired the Southern California branch of Lincoln operated by their uncle, Ed Little.

The company celebrated its 60th anniversary last year.

Those who knew Katherine Luecker say she had an engaging personality and that she immensely enjoyed speaking with customers, whether on a pool deck or a trade-show floor.

“We always had time to have one dinner together [at a trade show],” said Pablo Navarro, president of Santa Barbara-based Chemtrol. “I can’t think of anyone in the industry I met in more parts of the country.”

Navarro considered Luecker a “lifelong friend.” Their relationship spanned 32 years. “She was a consummate professional and brought a huge amount of knowledge, interest and caring to our industry,” he said. “In an industry that could use a lot more women, she was a rarity and an outstanding member of our community.”

One of Luecker’s proudest contributions to the industry was serving as a founding member of the Association of Aquatic Professionals. When the National Recreation and Park Association dropped its annual National Aquatic Conference, Luecker was among those who helped organize a new educational and exhibition venue that launched in 2011.

As a board member and exhibitor liaison, she took charge of the association’s silent auction, which raised money for the conference’s scholarship fund to help offset travel costs.

“She really felt very passionate about being able to offer scholarships to the conference for people who could not otherwise attend,” Hefter said.

The AOAP’s annual silent auction is now named in Luecker’s honor.

In 2011, the World Waterpark Association presented Luecker with an Industry Leadership Award for exceptional product development and customer service and support in the water attractions industry.