LAKEVILLE – You could say amateur racing is where he found his calling.
“Every racer has a complaint, why they lost a race,” explained longtime Hoosier Tire employee Irish Saunders. “And Bob’s complaint was because of tires. So, Bob was like, ‘I’m gonna go ahead and start building race tires.' And he did. And it all started right there.”
Bob Newton and his wife Joyce started Hoosier Tire in 1957. It grew into an international company, manufacturing and shipping dozens of different kinds of tires all over the world and employing hundreds in Lakeville and Plymouth.
But about 18 months ago, Newton suffered a stroke. He died Wednesday at his home in Lakeville. His passing was not unexpected, but friends and family members said the company he built along with what he quietly gave back to the community will live on forever.
“All he knew, the family knew, was work,” said Saunders. “He didn’t have the condo in Florida. He didn't have the yacht in the Caribbean. He just worked. That was his deal. There'd be days when I'd come by here on a Sunday and his car [would be in the parking lot] and he’d be upstairs working.”
While building a successful family business, the Newtons also found time to give back.
“Newton Park was his baby,” said Scotty Merrill, Bob’s grandson and Hoosier Tire executive vice president. “It was his pride and joy after his family, after his business. It's one thing he could give back to the kids that they never really had a decent place to play.”
Just down the road from those ball diamonds and soccer fields along U.S. 31 in Lakeville sits Newton Center – a gathering place Bob and Joyce bought and renovated that is on the National Registry of Historic Places.
Now Newton’s wife, one of his daughters and grandson Merrill will continue to run Hoosier Tire.
“The hardest part is having someone to ask that question, what should I do?” Scotty said. “We have to ask that question amongst ourselves now – what’s best for the company and what’s best for us now?”
And they know there’s no other choice but to look ahead because after all, it’s what Bob would want.
“It’s a good thing he’s not suffering. There’s no more pain. It’s full bore from here on out.”
Newton leaves behind his wife, four children and several grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Hoosier Tire is also mourning the loss of 30-year employee Mike Boits, who lost a battle with cancer Wednesday, the same day Newton passed.
Funeral Arrangements for Robert “Bob” Newton:
Visitation and funeral services are open to the public.
Visitation will be Monday Oct. 1 from 1 – 4 pm and 6 – 8 pm at the Newton Center located at 601 N. Michigan Street in Lakeville.
Funeral will be Tuesday Oct. 2 at 10 am at the Newton Center. Burial to take place immediately following the service at the St. Joseph Valley Memorial Park Cemetery.