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.”