Why Emphasis on Legacy Writing?

Blog # 506; Copyright @ 7 October 2018; community-investor.com

Perspective. ‘Land lease communities, previously manufactured home communities, & ‘mobile home parks’, comprise the real estate component of manufactured housing.’

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INTRODUCTION: I learned years ago, if I don’t record stories from my past, soon after they occur, the memories are lost forever. Childhood recollections (casting toys in my father’s foundry); college (meeting Carolyn); father to Susan & Adam; combat in Vietnam (seeing bodies of Russians along the Ho Chi Minh trail); various jobs in factory-built housing (plant manager) and property management (of land lease communities); and becoming a grandfather, and now great grandfather, for the first time, to name just a few personal experience arenas.

What follows are some otherwise lost memories, not recorded for posterity, but penned from my recollections as their friend and industry observer. Enjoy – and be inspired to begin thinking of preserving your own, or corporate, legacy for family, friends, and associates.

I.

Why Emphasis on Legacy Writing?

Pick up Latest Issue of the Allen Letter professional journal & Look at the ‘In Memoriam’ block of names featured in every issue.

There you find the names of friends and associates, in the manufactured housing industry in general, the land lease community real estate asset class in particular, who’ve died during the past few years. Not every decedent we know is written into this list, mainly those I knew who’ve enjoyed regional or national personal and business rep and recognition. Every one of these individuals, and many more, have lived unique legacy lives worth preserving and sharing. Now, some did but most did not; and as a result, here’re a few examples of what’s been lost to eternity to date.

• Jim Overstreet of Phoenix Homes in Pennsylvania. In my opinion, Jim had an eccentric slant on life. All one had to do was visit his warehouse office, heated with a 55 gallon drum lying horizontally atop firebricks, burning firewood – and surrounded by vintage rocking chairs…for meetings with lenders ‘on his turf’. Seriously. And the legend goes on from there…like the vintage ‘trailer tires and parts’ scattered around the warehouse. It was like stepping back in time….

• Ron Richardson of OK & NV. He went to his grave without sharing the tale of how and why he named his firm, and by association, his land lease communities, Ballerina Enterprises. I know the story – it had to do with his first wife being a ballerina. Wives number two and three, as some will recall, were just as exotic in their own rights, but differently. And no one really knows the yarn behind his rare and never ending supply of rare industrial grit….

• George Goldman, as many of you know, thanks to earlier blog postings, did leave us his autobiography: Thee Road Less Traveled. A fascinating tale, available from amazon.com It’s penned like we expect from a no nonsense Chicago businessman.

• Kris Jensen, Jr. During the final decades of Kris’ career and life, ‘everyone in MHI circles knew him and his Connecticut-based Jensen Communities. Unfortunately, he did not pick up where his father, Kris Jensen, Sr., an immigrant from Denmark, left off in his autobiography, A Danish American. (An engaging ‘read’ long out of print). Perhaps someday we’ll learn ‘the rest of the story’ from yet another descendent of this 2009 RV/MH Hall of Fame member. Kris Sr. was also inducted into the RV/MH Hall of Fame, but 37 years earlier in 1972!

• Harrell Cohron. Ah yes, in my opinion, another gem in the land lease community crown of memorable owners/operators. Harrell and his identical twin Darrell, with the help of a family member, authored The Trailer Twins. Copies available from the RV/MH Hall of Fame – where the twins also happen to be 2018 inductees. Oh the stories, those of us who’re intimates, could share. Rumor has long had it the Cohron twins built most of their 1,500 rental homesites ‘out of pocket’. If true, that’s a feat!
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• Myles Sampson was truly a prince of a guy. We were close in age, when he passed. His family has been involved in commercial real estate in the Pittsburgh, PA., area since the Revolutionary War! At one point he and his brother hired a real estate broker to simply ID and market dozens of small parcels of realty not otherwise picked up during past transactions. A missed legacy tale opportunity!

• Bud Zeman. For decades, widely known throughout the upper Midwest. At times controversial, but in my opinion, always colorful and fair (to me). So much so, I penned a poem in his honor back in 2010. It’s titled: ‘A Toast to the Community Owner!’ and is featured as Figure J in SWAN SONG. Today, Bud’s son Ed carries on the family business our of their Chicago offices. Perhaps he’ll pen his family’s legacy during years to come.

• Boris Vukovich and I met only once, but he was an unforgettable person. When he died, his family published what I refer to as a photoautobiography. It’s only a few pages long, but is replete with individual and family photos taken over decades; also a narrative describing Boris’ exciting life as an immigrant turned successful businessman, in our line of work, and based in Colorado..

• Chuck Catalano. Sorry to say, a long time client and friend in the business, but left us nothing to remember him by. A clear example of the ‘loss to all’, when someone passes without pennning his or her legacy for us and those to come.

• LA. (Bud) Meyer. One of the first businessmen I met when relocating there in the early 1970s. A developer of land lease communities, ‘with tales to tell’, but like Chuck, did not do so, and now these Lessons Learned have been lost to the ages. Bud and Pat Meyer were also one of the most well known husband and wife management teams in the state of Indiana.

• Craig Fulmer founder and patriarch of Heritage Financial in Elkhart, IN. A long time friend, who fashioned his firm’s offices and his home, within the turn of the (previous) century YWCA building. And early on, during the seller-finance cycle of our asset class, it was commonplace to hear owners/operators talk of ‘making the pilgrimage’ to Heritage, to learn the basics of contract sale of manufactured homes. But no legacy writings here either, sad to say.

• Judy Carr. Now, if anyone – on this list and elsewhere, had a history story to tell, paralleling that of the manufactured housing industry, it was Judy – and her husband, Bill They were there ‘almost at the beginning’, as freelance consultants to independent (street) MHRetailers, and later, LLCommunity folk. But like so many others, no legacy writings left behind to date – sharing their Lessons Learned, and more, in and out of Iowa.

• Maurice Wilder of FL. All I have in our corporate files about Maurice, is a collection of stories about herding ostriches and giraffes in central Florida. And I know he was a longtime friend of yet another Midwest icon, Warren Huddleston., But neither man left us their story, so we’ll ‘never really know’….

• Mac McClanahan, veteran community manager, and late in life – freelance consultant, was everyone’s ‘friend in the business’. His untimely death, a couple years ago left a void among Indiana land lease community folk. And as many times as I encouraged him to pen his property management story, he never got around to it – that I know of. Heck, we all learned something from Mac; now we can’t….

• Steve Pappas, CPM. By coincidence, we authored texts describing (then) mobile home park management, back in the mid-1980s. So, for awhile we were kinda competitors, but friendly ones. Steve ended his long career fee-managing income-producing properties in AZ, but never updated his first book, or took time to pen his legacy. Another loss to all of us.

• Tom Horner, Jr., former pro football player, longtime KS & MO community owner/operator. Years ago, 9circa 1996) Tom penned the basics of his ’21st Century National Manufactured Home Landlease Community Rating System’. It’s still available for reference, as Appendix N in the J. Wiley & Sons text: How to Find, Buy, Manage, & Sell a Manufactured Home Community, George Allen, 1996. Book is long out of print but used copies often available via amazon.com

• Howard Walker. Now, if anyone had a lifelong tale worth sharing, Howard sure did. Long a protégé of Sam Zell of REIT – ELS, Inc. fame, he had more pithy stories to tell than he could remember. Ask Nathan Smith how Howard ‘one upped him’ after Howard’s death. Read Sam Zell’s autobiography, Am I Being Too Subtle?, to learn why Howard likened walking into ELS offices as “walking into the inside of a Juicy Fruit wrapper.” Seriously. Sam’s book is also available from amazon.com

OK, that about covers most of the individuals listed in the Allen Letter monthly Memoriam. But it doesn’t solve the challenge of so many stories and Lessons Learned left untold and shared with you and me. How to address this shortfall? First off; decide to ‘tell your story’. How to do so? Easy first step is to phone the Official MHindustry HOTLINE: (877) MFD-HSNG or 633-4764 and request a FREE coy of the recently published booklet: ‘Who Will Preserve Your Legacy…as a manufactured housing or community businessperson? Answer: You!’ So much good info in there for you, including a Five Step Process for preparing one’s personal or corporate story for publication and sharing.

George Allen, CPM, MHM

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