Escapees RV Club founder Joe Peterson died Wednesday (Dec. 22) in Houston.
Peterson and his wife, Kay, founded the club in 1978. They were 2001 inductees into the RV/MH Hall of Fame in Elkhart, Ind.
The Petersons were owners/developers of 18 RV parks in 11 states and were widely recognized consumer educational seminar speakers at RV events. They authored numerous self-help books on the RV lifestyle.
For over 20 years they developed the Escapees RV club, mail and message forwarding service and coordinating medical insurance. They operated an adult day care and residency program near their office in Livingston, Texas.
RVBUSINESS.com will provide more details when they become available.
The Petersons were interviewed by RVBusiness in September in Goshen, Ind., at the club’s 50th Escapade. Excerpts from that interview follow:
When Joe and Kay Peterson started the Escapees Club July 4, 1978, they had no idea how it would evolve or how big it would become. Now with 50 chapters across North America, the club shares the RV lifestyle with both full- and part-time RVers, and takes freedom a step further by working to defend, protect and secure legislation that promotes Advocacy Coalition RVers’ civil liberties.
The Petersons started the organization simply out of a need to feel connected with other RVers.
“The need for information was great,” Kay said.
“We had been on the road eight years and met very few full-timers on the road,” Joe said. “Escapees was the first full-time RVer club. We basically got the party started.”
Rainbow’s End near Livingston, Texas, became the Escapees headquarters in April 1984. It rests six miles from Livingston and about 70 miles north of Houston. Rainbow’s End was the first Rainbow Park created. Then seven more sprang up in seven different states, followed by 11 SKP Co-Op parks that are owned and operated by members who reside in those parks. There are also two new Escapees Rainbow Parks Unlimited. Escapees is affiliated with another 1,000 parks that offer discounts to its members.
The organization employs approximately 100 full-time people across the club and parks. Joe and Kay remain on the club’s board of directors as vice president and director, respectively. Their daughter, Cathie Carr, is president of the board and her husband, Bud Carr, is vice president. Greg and Travis Carr serve as directors. Angie Carr oversees all daily operations of the club and also serves as secretary/treasurer of the board. The club remains fully owned by the Carr and Peterson families.
While it may not be an easy endeavor, defending civil liberties is among the most important roles the Escapees RV Club plays.
“Back in early 2000, we did fight and win a voting rights challenge in Texas,” Carr explained. “Our members and their right to vote were vindicated when the courts upheld the legality of our mail forwarding address.”
Along with defending RVers rights is Escapees’ belief that RVers should be free to “boondock.”