Hal Wing died last month at the age of 72. You may not recognize his name, but you'd have to be from another planet not to know the name of his product.

Wing started the company that makes Little Giant Ladders. The story begins in 1950s when Wing was stationed in Germany with the U.S. Army. While there, he met and married his wife and developed an appreciation of all things German. He moved to Utah after being discharged from the army but returned to Germany in the 1970s when the insurance company he worked for opened a branch there. During that time a friend of his introduced him to Walter Kümmerlin, a painting contractor who had invented an articulating multi-purpose ladder that folded small and was easy to store.

Wing thought it was such a great idea that he brought a sample back to the U.S. and showed it around. The responses were so positive that he quit his job, spent his life savings on a container load of ladders, and got into the ladder business. Unfortunately, the high price of the ladders and the lack of an advertising budget made it impossible to distribute them through the usual channels - so Wing began to sell them himself at tradeshows and fairs (his pitch included wearing lederhosen and a Bavarian cap and yodeling from the top of a ladder). He went on to do TV infomercials and now you can buy Little Giant Ladders just about anywhere ladders are sold.