In Memoriam: Remembering Those We Lost in 2010

As we look back at the major news events of 2010, we also remember those convenience retail industry people we lost to tragedy and natural illnesses over the past year.

Although she died in late December 2009, longtime industry leader and NACS employee Teri Richman was honored in February 2010 with the establishment of an ongoing NACS internship program to “perpetuate her passion for growing young talent, exploring new ideas and bettering our industry.”

Over the course of her 20-plus years with NACS, Richman was involved in nearly every major industry issue and initiative, from defeating beer-gas bans in the mid-1980s and improving store security in the late 1980s and early 1990s, to introducing technology standards in the mid-1990s and fighting credit card fees with the founding of the Merchants Payments Coalition in 2005, according to the association.

She was only 54 when she passed away after a long battle with cancer.

Another industry leader passed away in August 2010. John Hervey, a former NACS employee and executive director of the Petroleum Convenience Alliance for Technology Standards (PCATS), died. His 40-plus year career began at Mobil Oil Corp., where he held a variety of positions including providing retail automation solutions for the chain’s more than 1,000 convenience stores. After 25 years at Mobil, he became an industry consultant before joining Minit Mart Foods of Bowling Green, Ky., in 1995 as its IT director.

An early proponent of data standards, Hervey returned to consulting in 1997 with Gerke and Associates, where he led the industry standards initiatives that was to become PCATS.

In July, David B. Erickson, CEO of the 60-unit Freedom Valu Center gas station and convenience store chain, died in a motorcycle crash in Montana. According to reports, Erickson’s motorcycle drifted off the right side of the road and over an embankment north of the Bridger Bowl ski area. Erickson's wife, Debi, also was on the motorcycle at the time, and was treated for minor injuries, according published reports. Both were wearing helmets, and alcohol and speed were not factors in the crash, said police.

Compounding the tragedy, Erickson’s parents, Claire and Betty Lou, were found shot to death in an apparent murder-suicide in their home a year earlier in March 2009. The Freedom Valu chain of convenience stores is a family owned company with locations in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, Wisconsin, South Dakota and Michigan. David's father, Claire, and grandfather, Herman Erickson, bought the family's first gas station in Red Wing, Minn., in 1950.

In September, John West, director of sales and marketing for Alon Brands/Southwest Convenience Stores, learned that his son, Staff Sgt. Matt West, had been killed in Afghanistan. West, 36, was one of seven soldiers who died in two separate roadside bomb attacks on the same day. This American hero had already served one tour of duty in Iraq and was in his second deployment to Afghanistan.

Another untimely death occurred in September when Brent Rosenberg, 23, son of former Crown Central Petroleum CEO Frank B. Rosenberg, was struck by a vehicle in Malibu, Calif., while walking across the Pacific Coast Highway toward his home after parking his car.

And then there was the tragic death of Wes Michaels, 58, owner of a Cenex gas station/convenience store in Mentor, Minn., who sacrificed his own life to save his daughter, Heidi, from a tornado that destroyed his store on a late Thursday afternoon in June. Heidi Michaels, 25, who is a teacher at a local public school, was helping out at the store to give her father a day off on his 58th birthday when the tornado hit the lakeside community of 150 people, about 50 miles east of Grand Forks, N.D.

According to reports, Michaels, after hearing tornado warnings just before 6:30 p.m., stopped at the store to alert Heidi and any customers about the storm potential. Shortly after arriving, he went outside, spotted the tornado and ran back in to tell them to take cover in a walk-in cooler. As people took cover, Michaels covered his daughter with his body, saving her life from the tornado’s wrath. She received relatively minor injuries.

In May 2010, Garland Warren, founder of the Central Texas Sac N Pac chain, died at age 74. According to the chain's Web site, while visiting friends in this city in the mid-1960s, Garland and his wife Janelle went to the town's only store at closing time. The manager was setting a mousetrap on the counter and milk the couple bought for their babies was expired. The entrepreneur decided then the growing college town needed a second convenience store.

The Warrens opened a store the following year and began building the chain of 45 stores, 17 of which are in San Marcos. In 1998, the chain was sold to Warren's children, Blair, Blake and Cheryl, according to the chain's Web site. In 2009, Blake Warren stepped down and pursued other avenues; Blair and Cheryl Warren continue to own and operate the family business.

In September, Herb Richards, the co-founder of the Rotten Robbie gas stations at his Saratoga, Calif., passed away at his home at the age of 98. In 1947, Richards led the fight for self-service stations and lower prices despite an outcry that allowing people to pump their own gas would pose safety risks.

In August, Pauline Martin, one of the co-founders of the Lansing, Mich.-based convenience store chain Quality Dairy Co., died at the age of 95. Martin started the business with her late husband, Gregory, and Harvey and Mildred Mack in 1936.

And, finally, there was the death of Al Bernardin, inventor of the McDonald’s Quarter Pounder, who died of a stroke in January at the age of 81, Bernardin went to work at McDonald's corporate headquarters in 1960 and quickly rose to dean of Hamburger University, McDonald's training center. Later, as vice president of product development, he helped develop McDonald's signature fish sandwich, french fries, and hot apple and cherry pies.

But Bernardin's claim to fame came in 1971, when, as a franchise owner in Fremont, Calif., he introduced the Quarter Pounder, with the prophetic slogan, "Today Fremont, tomorrow the world."

Convenience Store News expresses its sincere condolences to the families and friends of these and all convenience and petroleum retail industry people who passed away in 2010.

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