ELKHART, Ind. – Forest River Inc. bids farewell to a true industry legend as Don Gunden, general manager of Rockwood, Flagstaff, Palomino and other successful Forest River brands, has officially announced his retirement.
The retirement is effective Feb. 5, officials told RVBusiness. Moving forward, key managers for Gunden’s divisions remain in place: Karl Miller overseeing Rockwood, Flagstaff and Columbus; Todd Martin overseeing Puma; and Ben Meloche overseeing Palomino.
Gunden joined Forest River in 1975 with the Rockwood brand and, as he jokes, “was part of the baggage ever since.” Under Gunden’s leadership and entrepreneurial spirit, Forest River’s Millersburg, Ind.-based manufacturing campus developed into one of the industry’s highest-quality production facilities, according to a release.
Pete Liegl, president of Forest River, (who is pictured at top with Gunden) expressed his appreciation for Gunden’s contributions, saying, “It’s with mixed emotions that we say goodbye to Don, who has been an integral part of Forest River since its start. ‘Gunny’ leaves not only a successful career but also a lasting impact on our company and the entire RV industry. We are grateful for his years of service and wish him a well-deserved retirement.”
“I am completing my plan of retiring at 55, only 18 years late,” joked Gunden. “It has been a lot of fun to watch Forest River grow into the company it has become and I am honored to have been a part of it. I’m confident that the talented team in place will take things to the next level, and while I will miss everyone, I will also cherish the relationships that have come into my life over the years.”
Gunden is a 2022 inductee into the RV/MH Hall of Fame. During his speech – and after, while noting that he also was celebrating his 50th wedding anniversary – Gunden said the induction was “quite an honor.”
“I have way too many co-workers to thank in a two-minute speech,” he said. “That being said, I’ve been extremely fortunate to have been associated with a lot of strong, hard-working people. Years ago, someone told me that if you surround yourself with people that are smarter or more talented than you are, it should work out pretty well. It turns out that was really great advice.”
“Please join us in extending heartfelt congratulations to Don Gunden on his retirement,” the Forest River release continued. “We are immensely grateful for his years of service and wish him all the best in this new chapter of life.”
Forest River Inc., is one of America’s leading manufacturers of recreational vehicles, pontoon boats, cargo trailers and buses.