James Van Doren, who co-founded Vans with his brother Paul (and ran the company from 1976 to 1984) died October 12, 2011 at his home in Fullerton, California after a long illness.
“He was a mechanic, a chemist, the brains behind the early shoe,” said his nephew, Steve Van Doren, one of several family members who still work for the company. “In his garage, he made all the molds for the very first soles,” including the trademark waffle design.
The brand gained national recognition when Sean Penn donned a pair of checkerboard slip-on Vans to play the spaced-out Spicoli in the 1982 film “Fast Times at Ridgemont High.”
“He guided Vans through the checkerboard era, and we were flying,” said Steve Van Doren, son of company co-founder Paul. “We were the hottest thing going.”
In addition to Char, his wife of 15 years, Van Doren is survived by his sons from a previous marriage, James, Mark and Eric; brothers Paul and Robert; sister Bernice; and five grandchildren. (LA Times)