"Heroes of Antique Volkswagening"
 (this page last updated 5/19/2013)

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Quick Navigational Links for this page:
Year 2013 Program Overall Press Release  (last update 5/19/2013)
Year 2013 Program - Photo of the "Heroes" award plaque  (last update 5/19/2013)
Year 2013 Program - Copy of the actual letters of nomination for this year's "Heroes" award honorees  (last update 5/19/2013)
Original "Heroes Of Antique Volkswagening" Program Concept Statement & Current Program Status  (last update 5/19/2013)
"Hall of Fame" - List of previous "Heroes of Antique Volkswagening" honorees  (last update 5/19/2013)
A message to the forces of cynicism and negativity (last update 6/9/2013)

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May 2013

The Common Gear Antique Volkswagen Society is happy to announce this year’s “Heroes of Antique Volkswagening” honorees. We are very pleased to recognize this year two people who truly epitomize the spirit of “selfless behind-the-scenes contributions and accomplishments” within the old-VW hobby.

The “Heroes” award program was originated in 1999 to help recognize those people within the antique Volkswagen hobby world who have especially given of themselves to help other hobbyists, often with little to no personal gain or attention. The inaugural recipient in ’99 was talented Michigan-based antique VW restorer Dave Crompton. There were two recipients for Y2K: Pennsylvania’s tireless antique VW hobby advocate Jim Siegfried, and New Hampshire’s intrepid antique VW road warrior Bill Collins. The three 2001 honorees were California’s “world class” enthusiast/author/entrepreneur Rich Kimball, Connecticut’s unsung long-time workhorse event organizer Chuck Pisconski, and Missouri's super-enthusiastic event participant/organizer/”do-er” Bill Bowman. Our two honorees for 2002 were Michigan’s “positive guiding light” Bob Case, and California’s amazing Golden Gate Chapter (VVWCA) head man Rick Spohn. In 2003 we gave a much-deserved spotlight to that long-unsung, low-key, behind-the-scenes “doer,” Nebraska’s Matt Joy. 2004 saw recognition of Wisconsin-based master-restorer of drivable classic VWs Connie Holcomb, and California’s long-time vintage VW hobby enthusiast/organizer/promoter Jan Peters. In 2005 the “Heroes” spotlight shone on MA resident and dedicated vintage VW hobby leader Peter Cook, and Iowa’s “ironman” vintage VW behind-the-scenes-doer-of-all-things Howard Query. In 2006, the “First Family of Air-Cooled VW Performance,” the groundbreaking and truly legendary Berg Family, from California, were most deservedly honored. In 2007, our honorees were Arizona’s “godfather” of VW toy, memorabilia, and goodwill Jerry Jess, and VW restoration parts pioneer Tony Moore of CA’s Wolfsburg West. For 2008, the extraordinary (and extraordinarily loved) couple from California, Erich and Wendy Kircher were recognized for their contributions to the hobby and to humanity. In 2009, the AZ-based internet impresario Everett Barnes of “TheSamba” fame was honored for his significant contributions to advancing the state of the (old VW hobby) art. In 2010, “The Godfather of the Antique VW Hobby,” Terry Shuler from PA was honored with well-deserved “Hero” recognition. In 2011, the CVA’s Jeremy Clayton was recognized for his tireless decade of contributions to the Northeastern old-VW hobby. And in 2012, CA-based businessman/enthusiast Scott Dempster, and the “mega-enthusiast duo” Mark Merrill and Ray Schubert, also from CA, were recognized for all their generous and significant contributions to the hobby.

This year’s “Heroes” honorees are California’s Brian O’Kelly, and Illinois’ Tom Janiszewski. Brian O’Kelly has “done it all” on the hobby scene, from club organizing activities at all levels, to raising enormous amounts of money for worthy charities via car raffles, and of course old car restoration—and he continues to contribute in countless unseen ways, such as web site design and maintenance for other hobby organizations. Tom Janiszewski has been a contributor to the hobby on both local and national levels for many years, with writing, illustrating, and “general assistance” wherever he can, to help organizations and events run smoothly. He is uniquely able to be involved and interested in, and contribute to the worlds of both modern and antique VW enthusiasm. Both men are undoubtedly “most valuable players” for the many VW hobby organizations that they help out with their creativity, energy, and enthusiasm.

The official public announcement of this year’s honorees, as it has always been, will coincide with Michigan Vintage Volkswagen Club’s “26th Annual Vintage Volkswagen Festival,” May 19th, 2013, at Ypsilanti, MI. The MVVC Festival has traditionally been the venue for the announcement of the annual “Heroes” honorees, ever since noted MI-based restorer Dave Crompton received the inaugural honor in a ceremonial presentation at the 1999 event. The Common Gear Antique Volkswagen Society wishes to thank all those who participated in this year’s “Heroes” award process, including this year’s esteemed nominators: Rick Spohn, Tom Baxstresser, Bill Bowman, and Gary Hanson. We also thank Lynn Anderson for her ongoing spirit and support for this program.

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Year 2013 Program - Photo of the "Heroes" award plaques

Photo of "Heroes" plaques for 2013

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Year 2013 Program - copies of the actual letters of nomination for this year's "Heroes" award honorees


Rick Spohn wrote:

I would like to nominate Brian O’Kelly for the 2013 “Heroes of Antique Volkswagening Award.” Brian started the Vintage Volkswagen Club of America Central Coast Chapter in 2000 and has been its president ever since. Brian is dedicated and committed to the VW hobby by organizing events and shows to promote the hobby. Brian’s biggest contribution has been the amount of money he has raised for charity through his acquisition, restoration, and raffle of a donor VW. Brian did this for numerous years which took an enormous amount of time and effort. Because of Brian’s unselfishness, he was able to donate all the money from the raffle cars to charity.

Last year I had a personal encounter with Brian that prompted me to nominate him for this prestigious award.  My club, the Golden Gate Chapter of the Vintage Volkswagen Club of America, has a website that has been lacking for years. I’ve always been impressed with Brian’s club website so I gave him a call to ask some questions and to see if he would help us resurrect our website. Brian’s unselfishness shone through again when he said he would be happy to put a prototype together and go from there. He said he could probably have something ready for our 2012 Solvang show in the fall after our Kelley Park show in the spring.  After Brian went out and took a look at our website, he realized we needed help now. So literally, within a few days, Brian had a website up for us just in time for our spring 2012 Kelley Park show including the pre-registration process. Brian spent numerous hours getting our website just right. To this day Brian has continued to be our webmaster asking nothing in return.

Because of Brian’s dedication and unselfishness, I am nominating him for the 2013 “Heroes of Antique Volkswagening Award”.

Rick Spohn

Tom Baxstresser wrote: 

I would like to nominate Brian O’Kelly for the “Heroes of Antique Volkswagening Award.” For more than a decade Brian has given again and again to the hobby. He is co-founder and President of the Central Coast VW Club, later to become the Central Coast Chapter of the VVWCA, and driving force behind all of its events.

With Brian’s leadership the club put on an annual show for many years in addition to “fun runs” and local BBQs. For Brian it is really about the people – VW people that is. He revels in the wonderful mix of people that event will draw with a common love for the old VW. For years now he has worked with other club members to manage the Meet in the Middle. MITM is all about the people and their cars, but not just show cars. If it can move you can bring it and the meet has grown every year. He has always made an effort to make events family friendly. In fact, at MITM kids eat lunch for free!

Brian has also led the charge in establishing and running an annual car raffle that has resulted in tens of thousands of dollars being donated to veterans groups, youth groups and other worthwhile charities. Most people do not know that for Brian this was a part time (nonpaying) job for many years. He sold tickets nationwide and managed the sale and communication with all the participants on almost a daily basis FOR YEARS.

Somehow during this time, Brian has also managed to be webmaster for both the local club and other car clubs as well as restore some beautiful cars of his own. His love for the hobby has not diminished during the last few years and we are fortunate to have him as a co-enthusiast and friend.

The hobby definitely would not be the same without him and it is with great enthusiasm that I nominate Brian O’Kelly for the 2013 “Heroes of Antique Volkswagening Award.”

Tom Baxstresser, Paso Robles, CA



Bill Bowman wrote:

I would like to nominate long-time Vintage Volkswagen enthusiast Tom Janiszewski for the Common Gear Society "Heroes of Antique Volkswagening" award for 2013.

Tom has been a key enthusiast in the VW Club scene in the Chicagoland for as long as I've known him, about 20 years now.  He was instrumental in the organization and the continuing operation of the Stateline Volksfolks Club around Rockford, Illinois.  While never seeking the limelight, in recent years Tom has helped with the management of the Volkswagen Club of America, currently serving as the Club's Vice President. Not one to stand by and let others do all the work, Tom is always eager to jump in and help in the day-to-day operations of our local and national Volkswagen Clubs.

As a VW journalist, Tom often covers VW events from the VW factory in Mexico to the Vintage events over in Europe, and everywhere in between.  He attends the huge Auto Shows to report on the latest offerings from Volkswagen for his readers in the VWCA Autoist, and in British VW Club publications. And Tom has shared his impressive writing and illustrating talents as the long-time editor of the Stateline Volksfolks newsletter. Tom is also an accomplished cartoonist and VW illustrator.  He has owned many old VWs, and currently has at least five that I know of.  He has one of the best VW toy and literature collections that I've ever seen, and he loves to share his collections with other VW friends.  And he is always generous with his advice and help for old and new VW enthusiast.

I feel that Tom is a worthy recipient of the CG Heroes award, and I would like to be the first to congratulate him for all he has done for us.   He's earned it.

Bill Bowman 

Gary Hanson wrote:

I support Bill Bowman’s nomination of Tom Janiszewski for the Common Gear Society “Heroes of Antique Volkswagening” award.

I have worked with Tom for the last 15 or so years in his roles with the Stateline Volksfolks and the Volkswagen Club of America.   He has shared his artistic talents in designing awards and publication page layouts for not only his own club (Stateline Volksfolks) but also for the Volkswagen Club of America and the Northeast Illinois Volkswagen Association.  Tom is always willing to share his insights when asked about club operations, design ideas and general Volkswagening.  A good friend and a great fellow Volkswagen enthusiast.

Gary Hanson, VWCA Treasurer, Northeast Illinois Volkswagen Association

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Original "Heroes Of Antique Volkswagening" Program Concept Statement & Current Program Status

We like to think we have a unique program wherein we like to receive nominations of people from within the Antique Volkswagen hobby world who may have especially given of themselves to help other hobbyists, to possibly consider for one of our "Heroes" awards. We know they're out there--the person who goes out of their way to help with someone else's project, who selflessly devotes their time and energy at events, who performs some other valuable service within the Antique Volkswagen hobby, with little to no personal gain or attention.

Now's the time to think, and perhaps also write about that person, and then, during the nomination solicitation period (see below in CURRENT PROGRAM STATUS section), send the information to The Common Gear Team (e-mail: It doesn't have to be a long write-up, but should, in addition to briefly describing their accomplishment(s), include a few specifics about where the person's from, club affiliation (if applicable), and (important) how to contact them should the need arise (and also to be able to ask their permission to publish their name when it's time to announce the honoree(s)/present them their award, if applicable). Later in the year we announce one or more "Heroes of Antique Volkswagening" award honorees, and announce the awards "far & wide," via press releases to the major print & electronic VW hobby publications (including, of course, HERE).

CURRENT PROGRAM STATUS (important update 5/19/2013)

CALL FOR 2014 NOMINEES!!!... Now's the time for you to put on your thinking cap and come up with a good letter of nomination for whoever you think might be a good nominee for the 2014 award. Please see the "Press Release" section from this past year's program, to see what kind of candiate we are looking for with this award--the phrase "selfless contribution to the hobby" is especially important to our way of thinking (there are plenty of media-savvy "stars" out there already--that's not who we're looking for). Please check the "Letters of Nomination" section of this page, to see how others have been "written up" to put them into consideration for this past year's award. Please submit your letter of nomination to NO EARLIER THAN JANUARY 1, 2014, AND NO LATER THAN MARCH 31, 2014. Thank you!

Please try to include information about how to get in touch with your nominee, should we wish to get in touch with him or her--thank you.

We reserve the right to accept, or not accept any nomination, for any reason, and the decision of the Common Gear Antique Volkswagen Society is final.

To Repeat: The deadline for our receipt of 2014 "Heroes" nominations = March 31, 2014

As always, our target event for the annual Official Announcement of the "Heroes of Antique Volkswagening Award" is the Annual Michigan Vintage Volkswagen Club Vintage Festival. Please do check out everything else that our good friends at the Michigan Vintage VW Club are up to at their online home:

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"Hall of Fame" - List of previous "Heroes of Antique Volkswagening" honorees

1999 - Dave Crompton
2000 - Jim Siegfried & Bill Collins
2001 - Rich Kimball, Chuck Pisconski, & Bill Bowman
2002 - Bob Case & Rick Spohn
2003 - Matt Joy
2004 - Connie Holcomb & Jan Peters
2005 - Peter Cook & Howard Query
2006 - The Berg Family
2007 - Jerry Jess & Tony Moore
2008 - Erich & Wendy Kircher
2009 - Everett Barnes
2010 - Terry Shuler
2011 - Jeremy Clayton
2012 - Scott Dempster, Mark Merrill, & Ray Schubert

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A message to the forces of cynicism and negativity

"Just letting you know. Time to say something..."

I know there are people who view this program as something with some sort of "other" political purpose beyond what is visible on the surface. I am here to tell you that it is nothing more than what you see--an attempt to give some recognition to the people who work in a positive direction to make our old VW hobby more enjoyable.

I am 53 years old now, and it's way past the point where I worry about stuff like "anonymous messages" and what-not. I do the best I can, and just try to keep pushing forward, every day.

I have some advice for you, whoever you are: Why not try to focus on the positive in the world? Negative energy will just eat you up in the long run--I guarantee it.

I have struggles in my life, just as I'm sure that you have struggles in your life. My struggles are very real to me, just as I'm sure yours are to you. But try not to let them cast a shadow on stuff that's supposed to be all about fun and fellowship, like the old VW hobby.

My two cents to you, brother, for whatever it's worth.


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