Robert “Bob” Lee Vermeer, husband, father, grandfather and leader passed away at 78 years old on August 17, 2022 with loving family surrounding him.
Known as a servant leader in his personal, professional and spiritual life, Bob’s vibrant love of people, passion for Christ, distinct laugh and desire to put others first is what those who know and love Bob will remember most.
Born in Oskaloosa, Iowa, on July 28,1944, to Gary and Matilda Vermeer, the second child, with brother Stan and sister Mary, Bob grew up on a family farm near Pella. Bob’s love for the outdoors and life on the farm was evident, with animals being his favorite. There was always a well-loved farm dog around and even a bottle calf to feed. But it was his grandfather, John Van Gorp, that introduced him to the best of all pets, horses. Bob’s grandfather and mother picked out his first pony, Ruby. Bob was rarely without a pony or horse from that point forward and enjoyed many fond memories and awards as a result of his horse hobby.
Bob attended Wheatgrow Country school through first grade, and then Pella Christian schools through high school graduation in 1962. He enjoyed academics, played intramural sports and was involved with music, singing in various choirs and playing tenor sax in the band.
From an early age, Bob loved spending time with his parents and two siblings, Stan and Mary. They grew up watching their father and founder of Vermeer, Gary Vermeer, build a company based on values while innovating better ways to do work on the farm. Even as a child, Bob saw a future in business. For career day at Wheatgrow School, Bob dressed as a businessman.
After high school, Bob attended Dordt College for a two-year degree. There his love for music grew as he discovered his beautiful tenor voice. Interested in economics and business, Bob transferred to Central College, graduating in 1966. Bob’s first job out of college was working at Marion County Bank, working there until 1973, eventually serving as Vice President and Director.
In 1968, Bob married Lois DeJong. Together, they raised their three children – Daniel, Heidi and Allison – in Pella. Fond memories included fishing trips to Canada and family vacations to Lake Okoboji and the Lake of the Ozarks. Eventually, regular gatherings at their Lake Panorama home (Meer Huis) is where Bob and Lois spent cherished time with their children and grandchildren as they grew. You could also find Bob regularly cheering on his kids and grandkids in their extracurricular activities. Bob generously devoted his time and talents to family, church and community.
Bob joined Vermeer in 1974 and held multiple roles that drove the business strategy and long-term growth of Vermeer, including Chief Executive Officer beginning in 1989 and later Co-Chief Executive Officer in 2003 alongside his sister Mary. Bob also served as Chair of the Board from 1989 through 2014. It was during his tenure that the business grew to more than 60 countries on six continents with an amazing team of employees and products supported by hundreds of dealers around the world. On the family side, Bob was a leader in promoting succession planning to transition the business to future generations of the Vermeer family.
Bob was committed to countless philanthropic endeavors as President of the Vermeer Charitable Foundation. The Foundation’s efforts have improved the lives of people throughout local communities, the State of Iowa and worldwide. Bob and Lois were charter and long-term member of Faith Christian Reformed Church. Bob served as an elder and often participated in praise and worship. In 2007, the Bob Vermeer Spirit of Caring award began as a recognition of the important company culture Bob helped build. The award celebrates team members who demonstrated that culture both at work and beyond.
His business expertise and passion for people resulted in several board roles, past and present, some of which include: Central College Board of Trustees, Dordt College Board, Guide One Insurance Co. Board, Marion County State Bank Vice President and Board of Directors, Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM), Iowa Business Council, Calvin Theological Seminary Board of Trustees, Pella National Bank Board, Pella Community Hospital Board, Pella Opera House Board, Hilltop Manor Board, Pella Area Community & Economic Alliance, Pella Planning & Zoning Committee and Vital Men Ministries.
Later in life, Bob continued to expand his interests, sharing his time with causes such as Blessman International, Wildwood Hills Ranch and New Life Prison Church. In 2019, Bob and his daughter Allison built a horse arena and business, Grace Therapeutic Riding, used to enrich the lives of people with equine-assisted services and training. He continued contributing his vocal talents by actively singing with groups, choirs and praise teams in the area. Bob also dedicated time as an ambassador for Vermeer, family business planning and shareholder engagement.
Bob is survived by his wife, Lois, three children and their spouses and nine grandchildren, Dan and Tricia Vermeer – Brant (Kelsey), Isaac, Jack, Ella; Heidi and Chad Quist – Xander, Anna, Zoey; and Allison and Kyle Van Wyngarden – Drew, Clair. Bob was also survived by his siblings Stan and Alma Vermeer and Mary and Dale Andringa. His surviving in-laws are Stan and Judy Ver Heul, Pete and Carol Verhey, Mark and Jaci Hugen and Bob and Diane DeJong and many neices and nephews. He was preceded in death by his parents, Gary and Matilda Vermeer, Lois’ parents, Martin and Minnie DeJong, and Margaret Vermeer, Stan’s first wife, and in-laws Fred and Linda Pelton.
Bob will be best remembered by his friends, family and peers for the spirit he exemplified where people matter most. Caring for others and his strong faith are some of the lasting legacies Bob leaves behind for his family, friends and the team at Vermeer to carry on well into the future.
To share memories with the Vermeer family, view a timeline of Bob Vermeer's accomplishments, photos and videos, visit https://www.vermeer.com/na/bob-vermeer#bio.
[Podcast] Conversations with Ag Equipment’s Entrepreneurs: Vermeer Manufacturing
In 2018, Farm Equipment Editor/Publisher Mike Lessiter sat down with the Vermeer family to record this episode of the How We Did it Podcast. The interview includes second generation Bob Vermeer and Mary Andringa, and third generation Jason Andringa and Mindi Vanden Bosch. You’ll hear perspectives from each about the early days and how, after enormous periods of growth following other downturns in the business, the company has continued to innovate and expand, including another doubling of the business in the last 20 years.