Ten new members were inducted into the RV/MH Hall of Fame in Elkhart, Ind., during a dinner Monday night (Aug. 3) attended by 416 people, including two U.S. congressmen.
Inductees included Peter J. Liegl, founder of Forest River Inc., Sue Bray, veteran executive director of the Good Sam Club, and David Garvin, founder of the Camping World chain of RV accessory stores.
Joe Kelly, director of the Iowa Manufactured Housing Association, received the RV/MH Hall of Fame Award that previously bore the name of the hall’s president, Carl A. Ehry, who asked that it be renamed. ”I don’t live for honors, I live to honor others,” said Ehry, a former Salvation Army executive.
Bray, a vice president of Affinity Group Inc., parent of RVBusiness, gave the most emotional acceptance speech to the audience assembled in the facility’s Boots and Betty Ingram Hall.
Also in attendance were U.S. Reps. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., and Mark Souder, R-Ind., both of whom recently received the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association’s (RVIA) National Legislative Award.
“When I started working at the Good Sam Club 33 years ago, the only thing I knew about RVs was that I didn’t want to be behind one on the freeway,” Bray said. “But this incredible world opened up to me and I got to meet people who were living their dreams, experiencing the freedom to travel around this great country.
“We are lucky to live in a country where we have the freedom to explore our natural treasures and for our public lands to be preserved for years to come.”
Ruth Baidas, widow of Richard A. “Dick” Baidas, founder and co-owner of General RV Centers, Wixom, Mich., gave the touching acceptance remarks for her husband who died in June 2006. “I am thrilled with pride and honor to accept this in Dick’s name,” she said. “My children and I know how hard Dick worked. Dick was honest and up front with his employees, customers and counterparts in the industry. He never hesitated to speak the truth.”
Among the RV inductees:
- Liegl, is a long-time industry executive who developed several companies, most recently Forest River Inc., Elkhart, Ind., the nation’s largest towable RV manufacturer. Liegl is most recognized for building his company into an RV industry powerhouse and selling it to noted investor Warren Buffett, bringing Berkshire Hathaway Inc. into the RV industry.
- Hal Fowler, founder of DTI RV Appliance Parts, Middlebury, Ind., which is now owned by Stag-Parkway Inc., and is a major distribution center for supplying repair parts to RV dealers and repair facilities. He has served as a board member of the Warehouse Distributors Association (WDA) and is an active member of Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA).
- Garvin founded Camping World, Bowling Green, Ky., a leading retail chain of RV parks and accessories stores later sold to Affinity Group Holdings Inc. A former park owner, Garvin revolutionized the marketing of RV aftermarket products and services with customer satisfaction as the cornerstone.
- Tim Dewitt, of the Michigan Manufactured Housing Association and Michigan Association of Recreational Vehicles and Campgrounds (MARVAC), Okemos, Mich. The 30-year MHA/MARVAC executive director is recognized by his peers and members as a dynamic spokesperson for the MH and RV industries and a leader in developing positive promotions for both.
Manufactured housing inductees were Kevin Clayton, Clayton Homes, Maryville, Tenn.; Donald F. Glisson Sr., Triad Financial Services, Jacksonville, Fla.; the late Jake Hannon, AAA Mobile Homes, Tucson, Ariz.; and Kristian Jensen Jr., Jensen’s Inc., Old Saybrook, Conn.
The RV/MH Hall of Fame, founded in 1972, has inducted more than 300 industry pioneers and key leaders. Honorees, by design, are selected for their exemplary contributions to the growth and development of the greater industry and not primarily for their personal success.