Pete Veldman leaves a legacy of generosity
WILMA AND PETE VELDMAN
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.
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
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
“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
“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
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