Gary Burrell, co-founder of Garmin, died Wednesday at the age of 81, the Olathe, Kan.-based company announced Thursday.

Burrell, together with engineer Min Kao, formed the company in 1989 to build products enabled by the then-emerging technology of Global Positioning System, or GPS.

Burrell retired in 2002 and continued to serve as Garmin’s co-chairman until 2004, when he was named chairman emeritus.

Over the years, Garmin grew from a small startup to a global company with more than 13,000 employees in 60 locations across the globe.

“Gary Burrell has been my friend, mentor and partner for more than 30 years,” Kao said in a news release. “His vision, values, engineering skills and commitment to serving our customers have been the foundation for the growth of our company. It has been both a great privilege and a blessing to have known this amazing man and I know his legacy will live on.”

Before launching Garmin, Burrell worked at several marine and aviation electronics companies including Lowrance Electronics, King Radio Corporation and AlliedSignal. He earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Wichita State University and a master’s degree from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

Cliff Pemble, Garmin’s current president and CEO, was among Burrell’s first hires.

“Whether it was about creating the best product or his behavior as a leader, Gary always considered the impact to others before himself,” Pemble said in the news release. “His example not only inspired my contribution to Garmin, it also positively influenced me as a husband and father. I am forever grateful for the rich and enduring legacy of Gary Burrell.”

Burrell long held a spot on Forbes’ list of richest Americans and was reportedly Garmin’s second-largest shareholder.