Pete In Memoriam



Pete Veldman leaves a legacy of generosity




Wilma and Pete Veldman are recognized Feb. 27, 2013, at the St. Joseph Chamber of Commerce's Salute to Business luncheon.
 Pete Veldman, a founder of Tire Rack and community philanthropist, died today Monday Mar-3-2014. He was 87.

 Front page article in the Tuesday Mar-4-2014 South Bend Tribune newspaper

Pete Veldman leaves a legacy of generosity - Written by KEVIN ALLEN South Bend Tribune

Pete Veldman, a man who built one of the area’s largest businesses and supported numerous charities, died early Monday morning Mar-3-2014 surrounded by family. He was 87.

Veldman, the founder of Tire Rack, will be remembered not just for the company that employs more than 400 people in South Bend. He also leaves a legacy of generosity and a life story that, for many, embodies the American dream.

“Pete Veldman blended so well sound business sense with personal warmth, kind trust and a great sense of humor,” said Phil Newbold, the CEO of Beacon Health System. “Our community has been so enriched by this gentle man with his infectious smile, quick wit and deep family values.”

Veldman was born April 4, 1926, on a farm in the Netherlands. He was the oldest of 12 children in his family and came of age in an area that was occupied by the Germans during World War II.

He immigrated to the United States in 1949 and worked as a migrant farm laborer. He first came to the Michiana region to pick fruit crops around Benton Harbor.

Veldman served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War from 1950 to 1952, and he continued to support veterans’ causes throughout his life.

In 1953, he married Wilma Zents, his sweetheart from the Netherlands. The couple had seven children and remained married for the following 61 years until his death Monday.

Veldman operated several businesses on South Bend’s west side with his wife and his siblings from 1956 to 1979.

Tire Rack was founded in 1979 as a single store that sold tires for high-performance cars. The company started its first mail-order operation three years later and grew exponentially from there. It began testing the tires it sold in 1995 and then became one of the first mail-order tire operations to embrace Internet sales.

“His leadership and presence within the Tire Rack walls for 35 years was marked by an unfettered energy and drive for excellence that will absolutely endure in everyone that was fortunate to know him, work for him and learn from him,” said Matt Edmonds, who is Tire Rack’s vice president and Veldman’s son-in-law.

Veldman never lost his work ethic — even after he’d become a millionaire several times over. That quality made an impression on Jeff Rea, the president and CEO of the St. Joseph County Chamber of Commerce.

“What was inspiring to me is I went out to the plant and Wilma was working the customer service area, and Pete was out working on the line,” Rea said. “And he was just as likely to be moving tires out in the warehouse as he was to be up in his office.”

Veldman never let success go to his head either.

The Chamber of Commerce honored the Veldmans for their work in the community at last year’s Salute to Business luncheon. Chamber leaders had to talk Veldman into accepting the public recognition.

“To those that knew him well,” Rea said, “they knew the same guy whether he had a dollar in his pocket or more than that.”

Many people who work in Michiana’s nonprofit sector talked about Veldman’s humility on Monday. He and his family have supported many charitable causes in the region, but they haven’t sought much attention for it.

“He and his entire family have just been very generous to lots of people in the community. Lots of organizations have benefited from their generosity,” said Mike Wargo, chief operating officer for the Hospice Foundation in Mishawaka. “It certainly is a big loss for the community.”

The Veldmans were major contributors to the new St. Joseph High School, which opened in 2012 on the former site of St. Joseph Regional Medical Center.

“He was a warm, caring and generous person, always believing in helping others in a variety of ways,” said Susan Richter, the high school’s principal. “He left a legacy everyone can appreciate and admire. His generosity to us and Catholic education is extraordinary.”

The family also has been instrumental in the growth of Hannah’s House, a Mishawaka-based charity that helps pregnant women. “Their inspiration to us all has been outstanding,” development director Bill Killilea said.

Veldman’s visitation is scheduled for 2 to 8 p.m. Wednesday at Kaniewski Funeral Home, 3545 N. Bendix Drive in South Bend.

Mass will be held at 10 a.m. Thursday at Christ the King Catholic Church in South Bend, followed by burial at St. Joseph Valley Memorial Park in Granger.

In lieu of flowers, the family has requested that donations be made to Holy Cross Mission Center, P.O. Box 543, Notre Dame, IN 46556, or Women’s Care Center, 360 N. Notre Dame Ave., South Bend, IN 46617



Peter Veldman Eulogy

Mass of Christian Burial March 6, 2014

Early Monday morning, Pete Veldman died peacefully surrounded by family.  Dad was blessed to achieve the happy life and peaceful death to which we all aspire.  For his family and friends we are left to wonder why, despite his good health, sharp intellect, and positive outlook, he could not have stayed with us just a bit longer.  It was as if his heart had said “This guy has been working hard and loving God, Country, and Family for almost 88 years, I need a break.”  And his heart simply refused to keep going despite the efforts of a fine medical team and our prayers.

Maybe his heart was right.  Dad may have worn out his heart by the sheer volume of love that he shared.  Mom and Dad enjoyed 61 years of marriage.  They were rarely apart.  They worked together, traveled together, and raised their family together.  They modeled a life of love and mutual admiration for all of us.  Dad loved his family and took great happiness and pride in all of us.  His grandchildren will always remember how Opa had that special twinkle in his eye as he teased them, just as we will remember how Dad would look around the room at every family event and say “this was the best night ever”.  He had a special love for his brothers and sisters and valued so many good times with them.

Dad often spoke of his love for this country.  He knew with absolute certainty that there is no other country that would have provided him and his family the opportunities that America did.  His service in Korea delayed his return to Holland and his marriage to Mom, but he always credited his time in the US Army for teaching him the English language, giving him training and skills, and opening up for him the joys of foreign travel.  He was very proud of his citizenship and everything that this country represents.

Dad’s heart was filled with his love of God and the Catholic Church.  How appropriate that on the day he died, Dad attended Sunday Mass, received Holy Communion, and was administered his last rites.  Dad was a faithful and active parishioner his entire life first at Holy Family and, later, here at Christ the King.  He believed in Christ’s teaching to help the less fortunate and had an impact on many people in many places.

Dad had an incredible capacity for work throughout his life.  He came to America with little more than his good looks and immediately went to work.  While following the apple harvest as a migrant worker, Dad became acquainted with the South Bend area, where he would ultimately make his home.  In the years that followed, he worked as a gardener for the Sisters of St. Francis and as a line worker for Studebaker before opening his first business – a Standard Oil Station on Western Avenue.  Dad, Mom, and Dad’s siblings successfully operated several businesses on the west side.  The Tire Rack came later, and its growth and impact on this community were magnified by his hard work, drive, and inventiveness.  Dad often said that “business is like a race, except there is no finish line”.  With that in mind, he was still coming to work every day as he approached his 88th birthday.  His heart just couldn’t quite get there again.

If the measure of our lives is what we have done for others, Dad leaves behind a great legacy shared fully with Mom.  Dad truly understood that it is in giving that you receive.  It was with great joy and gratitude to all the people who helped him in life that he shared his blessings with others.  He did his good deeds in a quiet way never “letting the left hand know what the right hand was doing.”  Nevertheless, his impact has not gone unnoticed.  A young nun has come here from Portugal and a Holy Cross priest from Haiti.  We have received emails telling of Masses being said for Dad in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, and Chile.  The overwhelming outpouring of love and affection for Dad that we have seen in the last few days and your presence here today speak volumes and gives us great comfort.

Let us leave here today with the sure and certain hope that Dad is with God, his daughter, Audrey, granddaughter, Allison, parents, and departed siblings.  Dad’s heart did not have the strength to continue loving and working the way that Dad demanded, but we know that Dad had an incredible life and the death he would have chosen.  We can’t ask anything more for him or ourselves. 

Presented by Mark Veldman
Written by Tom Veldman




A personal note

  I am the youngest in the family and Pete and Wilma were like a second set of parents to me. They encouraged me to emigrate to the US in 1961. They provided me with my first job in America. When high school counselors felt I had little academic potential, they believed in me and insisted I continue my education at Purdue University. I can say without a doubt that their encouragement of me and faith in me made all the difference in my life. I am lucky to have had such an excellent mentor and brother and sister-inlaw.

 Henry Veldman