SOUTH BEND, Ind. (March 4, 2014) — Flags at Tire Rack Inc.'s headquarters are at half-staff in honor of its chairman emeritus and founder, Peter "Pete" Veldman, who died March 3 at age 87 of natural causes.
"Pete embodied the American dream with his bold trailblazing accomplishments within the tire and wheel industry. 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 his son-in-law, Matt Edmonds, vice president of the South Bend-based distributor.
"Pete was a selfless man who actively served his community and enjoyed providing family, friends and colleagues with tools needed to succeed."
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Mr. Veldman was born on April 4, 1926, in Didam, The Netherlands. He immigrated to the U.S. in 1949 and served with the U.S. Army in the Korean War from 1950 to 1952.
Along with his wife Wilma and his siblings, Mr. Veldman operated various businesses on the west side of South Bend from 1956 until 1979, when he and his son-in-law, Mike Joines, founded Tire Rack as a single-point retail store in Indianapolis.
The store originally catered to enthusiasts looking for hard-to-find tires for their high performance cars. After three years — and due to Mr. Veldman's vision for the future — Tire Rack started its first mail-order operation, which grew exponentially. That led to Tire Rack's focusing solely on mail-order and eventually online tire and wheel sales.
The original store continued to operate until 1990.
In 1995, under Mr. Veldman's direction, Tire Rack began testing the tires it sold and posting ratings on its website, according to the company.
Since then, TireRack.com has grown into the country's largest independent tire tester, operating six distribution centers across the U.S. and an industry-leading online resource with more than 50 million visitors annually to its website, where consumers can research and buy tires, wheels and performance accessories.
In 2005, Mr. Veldman sold his minority share in the company so he and his wife could retire and focus on their charitable interests. Tire Rack said Mr. Veldman loved interacting with his employees and customers — "so much so that he never quit working."
In 2012, he was inducted into the Tire Industry Association's Tire Industry Hall of Fame for his vision in revolutionizing the tire-buying process.
Outside of the business, Mr. Veldman supported numerous community efforts, especially those targeting military veterans. Every few weeks, and up until his passing, he helped hand-pack boxes of magazines and other care items for military service men and women across the country.
"The drive that fueled Pete to succeed and spread joy within this country after migrating here in 1946 will forever live throughout the walls of Tire Rack as we continue to carry his light into the tire and wheel industry by continuing to look for new ways to spark innovation," Mr. Edmonds said. "He will truly be missed."
Preceded in death by his siblings Wilhelmina Coenan, Ben Veldman and June Wynen, his daughter Audrey and granddaughter Allison Edmonds, Mr. Veldman is survived by Wilma, his wife of 61 years; children Thomas (Anita) Veldman, David (Linda) Veldman, Connie (Michael) Joines, Sharon (Matthew) Edmonds, Marcia Veldman and Mark Veldman; 20 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
Memorial visitation will be held 2-8 p.m., March 5 at Kaniewski Funeral Home in South Bend. A Mass of Christian Burial will take place 10 a.m., March 6 at Christ the King Catholic Church in South Bend.
In lieu of flowers, Tire Rack suggested making a charitable contribution in Mr. Veldman's honor to the Holy Cross Mission Center, P.O. Box 543, Notre Dame, Ind. 46556 or the Women's Care Center, 360 N. Notre Dame Ave., South Bend, Ind. 46617