“With Jay’s passing, the RV industry has lost a visionary and inspiring leader who was loyal to the development and growth of the industry, his community and his company,” according to a statement provided by Blue Ox. “Those of us who have been fortunate enough to know and work with Jay, we have lost a beloved husband, father, brother, dear friend and inspiring mentor. Jay leaves behind a company that he, his father and grandfather built, and his spirit will forever be the foundation of Blue Ox.”
The company credits Hesse for leading Blue Ox into the RV industry after a downturn in the agricultural sector.
“Jay was also responsible for finding many of the niche market needs that make up Blue Ox’s line of products,” the Blue Ox statement said.
Hesse was involved in the RV industry for the past 30 years. He received the distinctive Jim Barker Person of the Year award from the RV Aftermarket Association (formerly known as WDA), for which he served as president from 1996 to 1997. Hesse also was actively involved with the Go RVing Coalition and served on various committees for the RV Industry Association (RVIA) and the RV Dealers Association (RVDA).
Hesse also was a member of the RV/MH Hall of Fame Board of Directors and served on the Technical Advisory Board for RVIA.
“His strong commitment to the growth of the industry is demonstrated in the associations he has served,” according to Blue Ox in a prepared statement. “One of his personal goals was to help the industry as a whole and work more closely toward achieving our common goals.”
A service commemorating Hesse’s life was held June 26 at the Heese Event Center in Pender, Neb. Memorials in Hesse’s honor sent to the Pender State Bank will be used toward a scholarship and future development of Hesse’s RV park, according to his family.
Hesse is survived by his wife, Sandy, his son Mike and his daughter Sonja, and five grandchildren. He is preceded in death by his daughter Sara.
Hesse proactively prepared for the continued growth of Blue Ox after being diagnosed with cancer. Key management and ownership changes at the company were made at his request, including the appointment of Ellen Kietzmann as CEO and president.
Kietzmann is now responsible for all day-to-day operations of Blue Ox. She has 20 years of experience with the Company working alongside Hesse.
The new Blue Ox Board of Directors includes Kietzmann, Mike Hesse and Sandy Hesse.
A donation in Hesse’s honor can be to the Pender State Bank by sending to the attention of the Jay Hesse Memorial Fund to 222 Main St., Pender, NE 68047.