It is with deep sadness that we lost an icon and a friend in the industry this past week. Van Heffner, founder of the Nevada Hotel and Lodging Association in 1979, was a leading figure locally, regionally and nationally for over 3 decades.
Anyone in the tourism or hospitality industries will smile and express fond memories and the utmost respect when they hear Van’s name mentioned. Van was not only one of the greatest industry leaders of all time, he had a genuine love for humanity. He never met a stranger and once embraced by Van, an individual had a friend and mentor for life.
Van was instrumental in establishing Nevada as a strong state with exceptional leaders and innovators in the hospitality industry. Long before Las Vegas was the capital of mega resorts and entertainment, Van put us on the map as a true and complete destination. He spearheaded advocacy and industry support amongst all member hotels and supporting allied members of varying sizes.
Van supported and led many initiatives in Northern Nevada working closely with the officials in Carson City for the betterment of the state. He had a special love of Lake Tahoe.
Through his mentoring, advising, developing and guiding, thousands of people were influenced within their hospitality careers. Van was always available to assist and advise up and coming industry professionals as well as seasoned executives.
When things were challenging with difficult people, Van was known to frequently say, “Don’t judge ‘em, just ‘love ‘em.” This was long before the tired cliché of “don’t judge” was a trend. It was a sincere sentiment and practice of Van’s at all times.
Van spoke to the lowest level of employee to the highest ranking executive in the same polite, professional and interested manner. No one was above another, everyone was equal, interesting and valuable. Each person was special.
Gentle but strong
Van was comfortable and genuine whether in the White House in Washington D.C. or at a backyard BBQ. He was gentle in nature but strong in presence.
Everyone who has had the honor of meeting Van at one time or another has a unique story with the same underlying context. Van loved people, helped people and engaged people. He was there when needed.
Van will always be in our hearts
Van Heffner was one of a kind…one who will always be remembered, respected and beloved. We thank him for touching so many lives in our great state and across the globe. Our heartfelt sympathy for the loss of this great man is extended to his family.