SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — John Bumgarner, the founder of two national limousine companies and an institutional figure in the chauffeured transportation industry, died Dec. 30 at a hospital in Springfield, Mo. He was 65.
Bumgarner died from medical complications caused by a fall on Dec. 18. He had undergone emergency surgery for a skull fracture and a brain injury. Funeral services were held Tuesday at the Greenlawn Funeral Home East in Springfield.
Considered one of the modern-day industry’s “founders,” Bumgarner projected a low-key grandfatherly demeanor and presence, with his white hair that almost matched the white exterior of his signature super-stretch limousine that he brought to trade show floors as part of Springfield Coach Builders’ vehicle exhibits.
His founding of Executive Coach Builders in 1977, which went on to become the second-largest limousine producer in the world, and later Springfield Limousine Coach Builders
in 1994, earned him recognition in the Limousine Digest Hall Of Fame in 2006. His companies also ranked among the industry’s top producers of QVM-certified limousines by Ford Motor Co.
The injury and death of Bumgarner came as a holiday-season shock to the chauffeured transportation industry.
"Every car I ever bought from him was tight and problem free. He took care of business," said Wade Randolph of Riverside Limousines in Baton Rouge, La.
On the limousinesonline.com public discussion forum, industry veteran Dean Schuler of Carey New Orleans wrote: "John created the limousine building industry in Springfield, Missouri. I am grateful that I was able to spend a morning speaking with him in June 2009. A walking encyclopedia of limousine knowledge and history.”
One of the industry executives who knew Bumgarner the best, Tom Fielding, could not be reached for comment before E-News deadlines. Fielding worked at ECB and is now with Imperial Coach of Springfield, Mo.
Further details of Bumgarner’s life and family were published in an obituary Jan. 1 in the Springfield (Mo.) News-Leader:
John Bumgarner, 65, Springfield, Mo., died December 30, 2009. The son of John Sr. and Edna Bumgarner, John was born April 28, 1944 in Hays, Kan. He was reared by his paternal grandparents, Elton and Fannie Belle Bumgarner. John grew up on a farm near Northview, Mo.
At a very young age, John showed a unique talent for independent thinking and entrepreneurial spirit. As a used car dealer, he bought a used limousine and discovered how poorly it was made; he knew he could do better, and created his first stretch limousine.
Building on that success, he started Executive Coach Builders, then a second company, Springfield Coach Builders. In 2006, he was inducted into the Limousine Digest Hall of Fame at the Limousine Digest Show in Atlantic City. Soon others followed John's lead and began manufacturing limousines in Springfield, making the city known worldwide as the Limousine Capital of the World.
At one time, there were seven limousine manufacturing companies in the area.
John was known for his generosity, creativity and self-determination. One of his greatest joys was providing for his family. John had many friends and employees who will greatly miss him.
John was preceded in death by grandparents, Elton and Fannie Bumgarner; and his father, John Bumgarner Sr. He is survived by his wife Kathy, of the home; mother, Edna Steed; daughter, Jana and her husband Larry Vernon; a son, Chris Bumgarner; step-children, Andy Pursley and wife Lavonna, Sara Parkhurst, David Parkhurst; granddaughter, Allison Vernon; step-granddaughters, Jessica Pursley and Addison Parkhurst; cousins, Vera and Leroy Drake, Don and Kathy Bumgarner, Gene and Kathy Bumgarner and Robert and Julie Bumgarner; brother-in-law, Tim Shelton and his wife Linda, their children Becky and Julie and her husband Jason Highfill; his mother-in-law, Marjorie Shelton; and John's first wife, Janet Buffington.
Funeral services will be at 2 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 5, in Greenlawn East, 3540 E. Seminole. The Reverend Dean Flanner will officiate. Visitation will be in the funeral home from 6 to 8 p.m. Monday, Jan. 4. Memorial donations can be made to Edward Jones, 3000 E. Sunshine, 65804, on behalf of John's grandchildren's college fund.
Sources: Martin Romjue and Jim Luff, LCT Magazine; Springfield News-Leader; Springfield Coach Builders