Robert "Bob" Gatzke, one of the the founding partners of Parnelli Jones Inc. and onetime president of the National Tire Dealers & Retreaders Association (NTDRA), died on June 12, 2015. He was 84.
Gatzke began his long career in the tire industry with the Firestone Tire & Rubber Co., where he rose to district sales manager in Los Angeles. He decided to become a retail tire dealer in 1966 when he helped found the Parnelli Jones Firestone chain.
Gatzke helped the firm grow from eight employees to 500 employees, 43 retail outlets, six wholesale warehouses and a race tire division with more than $60 million in sales.
As president of the NTDRA, the forerunner to the Tire Industry Association, he conceived, developed and implemented the concept of “The Independent Tire Dealers’ Bill of Rights.” It was the biggest grassroots response from NTDRA members in the organization’s history.
Many of the issues addressed by the “Bill of Rights” proved to be international in scope. Gatzke was invited to make a special presentation on the project to a select group of tire industry leaders in Germany.
His efforts earned him recognition across the country and around the world as a “tire dealer’s tire dealer." He was inducted into the Tire Industry Hall of Fame in 1994.
Other projects for which he was responsible during his tenure as NTDRA president included the Passenger/Light Truck Tire Mount/Demount training program and the revitalization of the Tire Retreading Institute.
In 1991, he served as president of the California Tire Dealers and Retreaders Association-South, and was on its board of directors for nearly 20 years.
Among numerous other activities, Gatzke served on the fund-raising committees for the City of Hope, the world renowned cancer center in Los Angeles; and the Jonathan Jacques Children’s Cancer Center.
Gatzke and his wife, Jean, retired to Vista, Calif., in North San Diego County. He is survived by his wife; daughters Sherry Brayton and Nancy Williams; and sons Everett Gatzke and John Gatzke.