Bernard E Heshion

Bernard E. Heshion, 81, passed peacefully surrounded by his family July 10, 2013 at St. Luke’s Hospital, K.C., Mo.

Bernard was born the 5th of 6 children to John P. and Julia (Vinlove) Heshion in Beloit, Kansas, 1931.  As a child of the Great Depression, he learned the value of working hard, saving what you earned, and living in moderation.  His fondest memories were of the homesteads in Concordia and Downs, Kansas, traveling the wheat harvest with his brother Jim, living adventures the likes of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn.

At a very young age, he began developing his sales career selling magazines and newspapers door to door.  He went on to develop and deliver film for one of his lifelong mentors, John Reagan.  He was quite proud to help his Mother buy groceries and pay rent with the few dollars he earned each week.  His life-long goal was to always live on less than his means.

Shortly after marrying his Lillis High School sweetheart, Luann, he began working for The Coca-Cola Bottling Company, fine-tuning his sales technique while dreaming of owning an automobile dealership.  As the children started coming, he began knocking on doors, selling Volkswagens from a catalogue.  Eventually he and brother Jim opened the first of a string of dealerships – Economy Cars, Ltd., North Kansas City and Mission, Ks., owning franchises for Volvo, MG, Jaguar, Morgan, and Austin Healey; Heshion Motors, Inc., Overland Park, Ks., where he owned franchises for Volvo, Mercedes-Benz and Rolls Royce; and finally Heshion Motors, Ltd., St. Joseph, Mo. withVolkswagen and Subaru franchises.  Even though he went on to sell luxury vehicles, he continued to sing the praises of a smaller, economical, foreign-made 4 cylinder car.    His was the first and only dealership to sell Rolls Royce, Mercedes Benz and Volvo.

Most notably, he solicited the Volvo Corporation in Sweden, in 1954, asking for the rights to import their cars.  After approval, he and his two brothers, Jim and John, traveled to Houston, Texas, to pick up and deliver the first shipment of Volvos in the United States.  He later founded and was elected President of the first Volvo Dealers Counsel of America.  At the time, import dealers were not admitted as members of the National Auto Dealers Association, so Bernard, along with a growing number of franchise owners, founded the Import Auto Dealers Association of America.  While fighting the factories for unfair dealer practices, he and his attorney, life-long friend and sometimes partner, Jim Humphrey, fought and won a landmark case called Heshion vs. Volkswagen that is still being taught in law schools nationwide.

In 1968, at age 37,  he suffered a heart attack and was told that he had only two years to live.  His pocket rosary wore thin as he prayed, thanking God for each additional year.  The doubt of his health and the loss of his brother, Jim, prompted him to sell his agencies and take an early retirement at age 50. He ‘retired’ to building “Skyview Farm” and raising miniature horses.  He then began writing his memoirs and publishing one book “The Last of the Great Depression Kids” with many more chapters for Volume 2, working part-time delivering film and traveling the countryside in his John Steinbeck-like camper.  His life had come full circle and Bernard was never one to be at a loss for a good story.

He loved his wife, his children, his careers, singing a great melody, cookies with milk or butter pecan ice cream, a little cough medicine before bed, and a Kansas sunset.  He’d like to be remembered as a devoted son and husband, a loving brother, a disciplinary father, a better-than-average salesman, and an aspiring author.

He leaves his wife, Luann, his children: John B. Heshion, Deborah H. Shigouri (John), Daniel W. Heshion, Mary M. McCalla (Alan), Thomas E. Heshion (Cindy), Joseph P. Heshion; Grandsons: John E. Heshion, Nick Shigouri, Matt Shigouri; Granddaughters: Katie McCalla; Annie McCalla, Meghan McCalla; and Great-Grandson: John Ryan Heshion.  He is survived by his sister: Julie King (John); many in-laws, nieces, nephews and their children.  He’d want us to mention his life-long friendships with Rich Diebold, Gene Kane, Jim Gladbach, Jim Rice, Jack Miller, and Jim Humphrey, whom he would call his pallbearers-at-heart as their friendships lifted him through life.  The family wishes to thank his nephew, John Pat King and his wife Shelly for all the loving care they bestowed on Dad.  Visitation followed by Mass of Christian Burial will begin at 9:00 a.m., August 3, 2013,  St. Peter’s Catholic Church,  815 E Meyer Blvd  Kansas City, Mo.  (Meyer and Rockhill)Following a brief reception, his ashes will be laid to rest in Pleasant Ridge Cemetery, Weston, Missouri.  In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to The Little Sisters of the Poor.  Condolences may be left online at “signaturefunerals.”  Finally, Dad always wanted the last word, and of his life he’d have said “I did my best, wasn’t as right as I thought.”


19 Comments

  1. Guy Townsend

    I saw the obituary in the paper today. My name is Guy Townsend. Mr. Heshion worked with my father for a short time at his newspaper in North Kansas City. One of my favorite things to do with my father when I was a young boy was to look at the new cars. I have a vivid memory of visiting Mr. Heshion’s Mercedes Benz dealership with my father and listening to my father and Mr. Heshion “banter” back and forth. I did not really know Mr. Heshion but I know that my father held him in high regard and admired his entrepreneurial spirit. Please accept my condolences and best wishes.

    Guy Townsend

    • john b. heshion

      Guy,
      Thank you for taking the time to write. I am John Heshion, Dad’s oldest son. I worked at you paper along side my Dad every Wednesday night stuffing thousands of newspapers into the early morning hours and delivering the bundles to the carrier boys front porches with our farm truck.

      My Dad, and I, had the highest regard for your father. My father often commented about him to me with compliments of the quality of the Dispatch Newspaper product and the paper’s integrity. He always appreciated his time with your father and thought that he was not only a very successful business man, but a gentleman and class act….a man of his word.

      Thank you for your condolences, Guy.

      Best regards,
      john

  2. Tom Abbott

    Tom, my prayers are with you and your family during this difficult time. Your father was a true visionary and pioneer.

    • Tom Heshion

      Tom, it’s been a long time, so nice to hear from you. It doesn’t surprise me that you would respond. I always found you to be one of the nicest people I’ve known over the years. I would bet that you are still in the restaurant business and I’m sure that you are doing well. Thanks so much for your reply.

  3. Marge Griff

    The world has lost a gifted writer, salesman and father who had a loving and generous heart.

    • Luann Heshion

      Thank you Marge. You were good for keeping track of him.
      Luann

  4. Michael King

    Sending wishes of gentle kindness and loving support for my Aunt Luann, my cousins and the entire family during this difficult time.

  5. Linda Bishop

    I was Mr. Heshion’s caregiver for a few weeks before he was hospitalized. I so enjoyed helping him and also listening to him talk about his life and his book that he was hoping to someday finish. He was an amazing man, a little stubborn, but so delighful.

  6. John and Julie King

    Bun,
    You were so much a part of our lives, and you will be so sadly missed. But we will look forward to hearing all the stories with you again when we are together in heaven. (Because we know you went straight there!) You always did love the stories!
    Keep us in your prayers and rest in peace my dearest brother.

    John and Julie

  7. Tricia Needham Barrows

    John, To you and your family,a message of sympathy, just to say many warm and heartfelt thoughts are there with you today. In memory I remember a Christmas that Bernard and Luann and All of your sisters and brothers had my children and myself to the farm home and treated us like one of the family..I’ll always remember it as the true spirit of Christmas..My deepest sympathy Tricia

  8. Dolores Coulter

    Bernard “Bun” made Lillis proud. My husband always spoke fondly of him.

  9. Dolores Hyde

    A most charming obituary Luann…capturing the essence of your late husband, you and the family. My sincere condolences to all.

  10. Our sincere condolences to Bernard’s family. We met him through his sister Jule and enjoyed our many conversations during ‘Happy Hours” in Weslaco Tx. He was an inteligent and very interesting man. May he rest in our Lord’s arms.

    Pat and Geri White

  11. Pat and Geri White

    Our sincere condolences to Bernard’s family. We met him through his sister. our dear friend, Julie King. We enjoyed our many times together and good conversations during ‘Happy Hour’ in Weslaco Tx. He was an inteligent and very interesting man. May he rest in our Lord’s arms.

    Pat and Geri White

  12. John and Marjorie Caster

    Bernie You became our friend in the 1960s and have remained so ever since. You were always proud of your family and of your faith.

    Any time I called on you for business reasons you were always helpful.
    You visited us in Texas in the recent past and you were at that
    time working on your book.
    You had a proud past and we will not forget you..

  13. Bob Brents

    I’m so sorry for your loss, I didn’t know Mr Heshion as well as I have known his 4 children (all 4 of you have worked for me at one time or another in my career)I do know that you can tell a man by how his children act and he must have been one fine man.

  14. Carolyn King

    It’s hard for me to imagine you gone, Uncle Bernard. It seems a very natural and fitting fact that every time I made a trip home from Denver you would be visiting mom and dad, and I would get to see you and visit for a bit and share a story or two.

    Guess I took that for granted. I am sorry that you had to spend your last few moments so sick, but I know you are at peace now, surrounded by those you love and have missed. I miss you greatly, but I am glad you are at peace.

    All our love, Carolyn and Clara

  15. Everett Hickam

    Bernard E. Heshion was once my employer. I worked with him, his wife and daughter, his brothers Jim and John and Bill Paulson also his son John who was doing things like cleaning and preparing the cars. Shortly before his death he contacted me and asked me to review his autobiography. I agreed to do so and had just recieved the first chapter when my wife became very ill and died.Bernard was one of the finest, hardest working, self made men I have ever been associated with. There will never be another with his drive and devotion to family and friends that he showed every day in his life.

  16. Bernard E Heshion was one of the finest men I have ever known. Self made by hard work and dedication to both his family and his business. He was my employer when we sold Rolls-Royce, Mercedes Benz and Volvo.
    Shortly before his death he contacted me at home and asked me to review his auto-biography. I agreed to do so and had recieved Just one chapter when my wife became very ill and passed away. There will never be another his equal. His devotion to his wife of 60 plus years was total also his children and friends. I mark him an exceptional good man.

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