A night filled with some tears and laughter ended with 11 new members joining the RV/MH Heritage Foundation’s Hall of Fame on Monday (Aug. 6) evening in front of a crowd of more than 300 RV industry leaders, family and friends at the Northern Indiana Events Center in Elkhart, Ind. (To view a slideshow scroll to the right side of the RVBUSINESS.com. Photos by Shawn Spence).
Breaking away from the traditional 10 nominees — five from the RV industry and five from the manufactured housing (MH) industry — the 46th class of inductees included six from the MH side as twin brothers Darrel and Harrel Cohron were both honored. The Hall of Fame now includes 409 members.
RV/MH Heritage Foundation President Darryl Searer delivered his seventh “State of the Hall” address and was honored by the foundation’s board for his service by having the organization’s annual “Spirit Award” renamed the “Darryl Searer Spirit Award.” The award is given annually to recognize “a person for their outstanding contribution to the success of the foundation.”
“There is nobody that has done more for an association than Darryl Searer,” noted Joe Stegmayer, the foundation’s chairman of the board who serves as chairman, president and CEO of Cavco Industries Inc.
During his address Searer explained that the Hall of Fame would be debt-free by the end of 2018 and that the hall’s income has risen while expenses have trended downward. In the third year of a five-year campaign, the Kevin Clayton Challenge has raised more than 92% of its $1 million goal and Searer told attendees that more than 80% of the money has already been paid.
Searer then presented a video that showed the foundation’s future vision for the Hall of Fame complex before awarding the 2018 Darryl Searer Spirit Award to James Scouler.
“When it looked like the Hall of Fame may be a thing of the past, Scouler got back on the board of directors and did something about it,” explained Searer. “Today, our financial worries are behind us thanks to this man’s concern and love for the hall.”
During the induction ceremony each inductee gave a short speech thanking colleagues, family and friends for all they achieved during their careers.
The five RV Hall of Fame inductees included: Derald Bontrager, Jayco Inc.; Roger Faulkner, General Coach Canada; Gregg Fore, Dicor Corp.; Rebecca (Becky) Lenington, Pennsylvania RV and Camping Association (PRVCA); and Dan Pearson, Pleasureland RV.
The six MH Hall of Fame inductees included: Michael A. Cirillo, Star Management; Darrel Cohron and Harrel Cohron (deceased), Cohron’s Manufactured Homes; John Evans, California Manufactured Housing Institute (CMHI); Gub Mix, Idaho, Utah, Nevada and Arizona State MH associations; and Bill Wilson, Cherry Hill Homes Inc.
Bontrager said he was “truly honored” to join his father, Lloyd, who founded Jayco, and brother, Wilbur, in the Hall of Fame during his short induction speech. Middlebury, Ind.-based Jayco is currently marking its 50th years and was acquired by Thor industries Inc. in July 2016.
Bontrager thanked his family for their support during his 40-plus years at Jayco and also credited Jayco’s employees for “giving their best with fairness and integrity.”
“I have made countless lifelong friends in both the dealer and supplier communities, and at the RV Industry Association,” he remarked. “I have also made many friends who I compete against every day. To all of you I would like to say that you make the RV industry fun.”
Fore, who recently joined Elkhart, Ind.-based G&G Media, which publishes both RVBusiness and Woodall’s Campground Management, as chief revenue officer, said he was “humbled to be recognized with those tonight and those before me that represent what I believe to be titans of our industry.”
“It is rare in one’s life to be honored by one’s peers, friends and family, especially when we are being honored for what we see as simply doing our job,” he noted.
Fore worked almost 20 years with Coachmen Industries Inc. and then Patriot Homes before going to work in 1990 as a sales manager for Elkhart RV supplier Dicor — a company for which he ultimately became president and co-owner.
He recognized his wife of 46 years, Nancy, along with his parents and father-in-law, who were all in attendance. “They all shaped me and helped me be the person I am today,” Fore said.
He concluded by saying he was fortunate to be a member of some great teams during his career, teams that included peers who “sharpened me.”
“In our youth we learn that it takes a team to be successful and we all want to be on great teams with great teammates that propel us on the route to the realization of our dreams,” Fore noted. “Fortunately, I have always had great teammates that shared goals and supported me when I needed support and encouraged me during the difficult times.”
Pearson began his career at Minnesota-based Pleasureland RV in 1975 as a lot/parts runner, before moving to other positions and eventually becoming president of the company in 1982, a position he has held ever since.
He noted during his speech that things weren’t always easy as he worked with the Recreation Vehicle Dealer’s Association (RVDA) and various other coalitions over the years but said that everyone he has worked with is “trying to make the industry a better place.”
“In a person’s life you are lucky to say you have been blessed a few times and it really, really means something,” Pearson said. “I had the most wonderful parents who reared seven kids, and instilled in us if you simply be honest and be nice to people, you will always have a roof over your head and food on your table.”
Noting that his parents introduced him and his siblings to camping as kids, Pearson also thanked his Pleasureland RV staff, many of which he said had been with the company for years.
“They really have allowed me to do the things I do on the national level and be a part of this industry,” he explained.
Lenington, who the foundation said is synonymous with RVing in Pennsylvania, has been actively involved with RV shows, education and legislative work for decades and retired as vice president of the PRVCA in 2015.
She told the crowd that she began her career as a ticket taker at an RV show before moving up and dedicating her career to the industry.
“One of the best things in life is the chance to work hard at something that is actually worth doing,” Lenington explained.