Hocker, Anderson inducted into Owensboro Business Hall of Fame

April 19, 2024 | 12:15 am

Updated April 18, 2024 | 11:52 pm

Photo by Meghann Richardson

David Hocker and the late Bob Anderson were inducted into the Owensboro Business Hall of Fame on Thursday during a ceremony hosted by Junior Achievement (JA) of West Kentucky at the Owensboro Convention Center. 

Both laureates were active with JA and several other civic organizations and nonprofits in the community. They were nominated for their outstanding civic and business contributions to the Owensboro area and recognized for their business excellence, entrepreneurial spirit, courageous thinking and action, inspiring leadership, community impact, and service as a role model. 

Hocker was born in Owensboro in 1938 to Talmage and Margaret Hocker. Talmage taught school for 16 years at Owensboro Public Schools before leaving the profession to become a homebuilder, while Margaret was a homemaker. 

During a brief video presentation about Hocker’s life, he detailed his upbringing, playing sports, and attending church. He also recalled countless times he joined his father on the job site, instilling in him a solid work ethic at a young age. 

Hocker spent his formative years mowing grass, delivering newspapers, and pumping gas. He enrolled at Kentucky Wesleyan College in 1956, joined the Army Reserves, and managed his father’s accounting. 

He quickly expanded his knowledge to construction and had an epiphany when he and Talmage returned home after visiting with a retired real estate Kroger executive, Mel Harvin, from Louisville. They discussed how to utilize the property that Talmage had pieced together on Frederica Street. 

The result of the conversation was Wesleyan Park Plaza. 

“It all started when we opened Wesleyan Park Plaza in 1964, and I still enjoy thinking about ways to make it even better,” Hocker’s daughter Valeria read on behalf of her dad. “The commercial real estate has changed over the decades with the emergence of so many big box stores and competition from the internet. But, one constant throughout my career has been that superior location and convenience will always be in style.”

Hocker showed courage during times of triumph and tribulation, navigating the loan crisis of the late 1980s and early 1990s to open malls across the Southeast, Ohio, and Florida. He is known nationwide as a pioneer in commercial real estate development. 

He attributed much of his success to his hometown of Owensboro. 

“I am fortunate to have been able to do business in our friendly, beautiful community,” Hocker said during his address. “I have always been proud to call Owensboro home. Our company has been blessed with a lot of skilled people right here in Owensboro.”

Hocker went on to express gratitude to several community members who have supported him along the way and to the JA for their continued efforts in the community. He also expressed appreciation for his loving and supportive family. 

“I am honored to be inducted into the Junior Achievement Business Hall of Fame alongside my good friend Bob Anderson,” he said. “Today has been a special day for my family and me, and we appreciate your being a part of it.”

He added that his hope for all Junior Achievers is that they will be guided by their passion and rewarded with the satisfaction of doing their best.

“More than 60 years ago, my father and I decided to build a new thing that is now known as a shopping center … and I’ve been addicted ever since,” Hocker said. 

While Bob Anderson possessed many of the same positive qualities and characteristics as Hocker, his professional career was slightly different. Those who knew Anderson well said he had an enormous capacity for adventure and mischief, constantly seeking entertainment and encouraging others to exit their comfort zone.

Anderson was born in Detroit, Michigan, to Victor and Marion Anderson in 1936. The family moved to Owensboro in 1943 to launch VE Manufacturing Co., specializing in window manufacturing. 

Eight years later, the family expanded operations to Bradenton, Florida. Anderson began his education career shortly after the expansion at the University of Florida before transferring to the University of Alabama and finishing his degree at Bowling Green Business University, now Western Kentucky University. 

While in Bowling Green, he earned an accounting degree and married Nancy Pollard. They returned to Owensboro to raise their three children.

During the ’60s, the family sold the company to Alcan Aluminum. To Anderson’s dismay, they decided they wanted to close the Owensboro location because it primarily focused on wood products.

Reluctant to allow the closure, Anderson pulled together some local investors, borrowed from multiple local banks, and purchased the business back from Alcan in 1979. During his speech, Bob’s son Tom said caring for the local community was always his passion, and that purchase solidified his commitment to Owensboro. 

“Through perseverance, dedication, and hard work, along with several loyal employees, he was successful in repurchasing the window company,” Tom said. “He changed the name to Sun Windows. Since then, it’s supported thousands of families over the years.”

Tom said his father was very proud of the community and always gave back as much as possible. He said Sun Windows has poured hundreds of millions of dollars into the community since 1979, but Anderson was never big on attention. 

“He was a very humble man – he never liked the accolades,” Tom said. “He was a very genuine individual, and I know he would be appreciative and grateful to receive such an award. I know he’s gleaming in heaven with the thought of being awarded this prestigious accolade.”

Tom added that Anderson’s expertise and vision were paramount to the business’s success but that he also had help along the way. 

“He was a savvy financial analyst, but those original investors and banks believed in him,” he said. “He was able to manage loans from numerous banks and was grateful that they believed in him and supported him. There were some tough times where he was unsure if the business would survive.”

He also attributed the company’s success to the many loyal employees of the past and present. 

“There are several loyal and dedicated employees who started with him in 1979 and remain involved in the business today,” Tom said. “A lot of the core group has been with the company for 50 years and has been extremely critical to its success.”

Several people at the ceremony agreed that Anderson profoundly affected everyone he met, always taking a particular interest in people. Tom said he tried to “adopt” as many people as possible, assisting them with education, financing, business, and more. 

“He wanted to positively impact as many lives as he could,” Tom said. “He was very proud of his impact on other people, and I think several people can attribute their success, in part and as a whole, to his impact on their lives.”

April 19, 2024 | 12:15 am

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