Robert L. (Bob) Stewart, of Sun City West, Ariz., one of the founders of ElDorado, which was a leading RV manufacturer from the 1960s through the ’90s and also started the bus company that is today known as ElDorado National, died Oct. 23. He was 79.
Sheldon, Walle, president and general manager of ElDorado National, provided the following information.
In 1960, in the small town of Minneapolis, Kan., Stewart joined other local business people to begin Honorbuilt Manufacturing Co., a manufacturer of recreational vehicles. Later known as ElDorado, this company quickly became the largest producer of pickup campers in the United States. ElDorado and its successors went through several ownership changes, but always with Stewart at the helm. During the early 1970s, and at the height of one of the most difficult and challenging times in the RV industry’s history, Stewart was proud and privileged to serve as the president of the Recreational Vehicle Institute, the self-governing body of the recreational vehicle industry and predecessor to the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA).
In the late 1970s, Stewart purchased ElDorado. It became known as ElDorado RV Inc. and later as the ElDorado Motor Corp. In the early 1980s, ElDorado was a relatively small motorhome company. However, in less than a decade, ElDorado became a small, publicly-traded NASDAQ company and branched out into other products, including the creation of what is known today as the small transit bus industry. At its peak, ElDorado employed over 750 people. It was the seventh largest manufacturer of motorhomes and the volume leader of the small bus business.
In the mid-1990s, Stewart retired from the RV manufacturing business. However, within a few months, his “retirement” ended and his new venture began. Joining others, he co-founded Coffee Reserve LLC, a coffee roasting and distribution company in Scottsdale, Ariz. This successful company was very special to Stewart. He was still working as a consultant for Coffee Reserve at the time of his death.
Stewart was born Sept. 28, 1931, in Cuba, Mo. He married his high school sweetheart, Elaine Miller, in 1950. She survives with three children, Deborah Walle of Cave Creek, Ariz.; Gregory Stewart of Scottsdale; and Jennifer Muller of Springfield, Mo.; 10 grandchildren; and 11 great-grandchildren. In July, the Stewarts celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary.
Throughout his life, Stewart was deeply involved in his community. He was a member of the Isis Shrine Masonic Lodge in Salina, Kan., and the Chamber of Commerce in Minneapolis, Kan. In 1983, he was named the Chamber’s Man of the Year. He sat on the board for the Recreational Vehicle Institute in Reston, Va., and the Southwest National Bank in Wichita, Kan. He also enjoyed his work with the church as a deacon for the Presbyterian Church in Minneapolis, and he was a member of the Lord of Life Lutheran Church in Sun City West, Ariz.