It’s with great sadness that we are remembering our co-founder of 10-4 Magazine and friend, Erik Sieben, who passed away on August 9, 2019. Talking with many who knew Erik, known to most as Big E, they talked about his generosity and how he changed many lives with an opportunity to become part of the 10-4 family – a family rich in diversity, that continues to grow. And if you are a contributor or cover feature, you become part of this amazing family. And those famous 10-4 dinners, shared over the years at the truck shows, are legendary and always memorable.
Sixteen years ago, I was welcomed into the 10-4 family when Suzanne Stempinski suggested I take over writing her Trucker Talk column. Our friendship back then was connected by our friend, Bette Garber. I had two great mentors when I started – Suzanne believed in me and Bette would always be there with ideas, encouragement and constructive criticism. Bette always said, “Write about what you know,” and I know trucks and trucking! Thank you, Erik and Dan, for giving me the opportunity and letting me make this column my own.
I was lucky enough to be part of two cover photo shoots with Erik and Dan. The first was a big no-no, as we did it on October 4, 2005 (October 4th is “10-4 Day” and the only day the folks at 10-4 do not work – or at least try). It is our unofficial official holiday!
Back in 2005, we were out at the old naval base in Alameda, CA with San Francisco as the background. It was an awesome day that was capped off with ribs and a great meal at Everett & Jones Barbeque. The second cover shoot was two years ago in Rantoul, IL while at the Top Gun Largecar Shootout show, when they shot my sweetheart John Jaikes and his purple W900 Kenworth and matching reefer. We were about to get kicked out of the “10-4 photo park” when I asked (begged) grounds manager Corky if we could shoot the truck next to some planes parked nearby as part of their museum. I explained that John had been in the Air Force and, reluctantly, he opened the gate and let us in. We didn’t have much time, but Erik made good use of it and shot the truck and trailer under the wing of a cargo jet (which is no longer there).
Erik made “10-4 Bucks” ($104 cash) famous, which consists of a crisp hundred-dollar bill and (2) $2 bills. I have saved every $2 bill that I ever got in my “10-4 Bucks” – so I have a lot! For the rest of my column this month, I would like to share some quotes from a few of our writers, contributors, friends, distribution drivers and advertisers.
“It only seems like last week when Erik asked me to start writing articles, and that was Volume 2, Issue 2. I’ll see you later, big guy!” ~ Wayne Schooling, author of Wayne’s World since 1994
“Around 1995, on a sunny day in southern California, Bob and I met Erik Sieben. It could have been at a Truckin’ For Kids show or maybe at Vic Caliva’s polishing shop. Big E was larger than life and always swept me off my feet whenever and wherever we got together. He put us and our truck on the cover of 10-4 Express Magazine and offered me a job – writing a column called Trucker Talk. My first few attempts were pretty rough, and Erik teased me about cutting off the tops of people’s heads (trying to see their eyes) when taking pictures. But he inspired me to keep at it. He and Dan changed my life in ways I never would have imagined, encouraging me to attend press events as well as truck shows and write about them for the pages of the growing 10-4 Magazine. We made the cover not just once but twice with two different trucks. It was like winning the lottery, but with more chrome. We’d get together and enjoy a meal or an adult beverage and talk about everything from family to photography, trucks and friends. He was generous with his time and knowledge, always looking to lend a hand. For the past 25 years, we’ve been proud to be part of the 10-4 Family. I miss you, Big E, but you’ll never be forgotten.” ~ Suzanne Stempinski, a former contributor and the original author of Trucker Talk
“My favorite memory with Erik Sieben (Big E) was the 2017 Top Gun Large Car Shootout in Rantoul, IL with him, Josh Rietveld (Pork Chop) and Dan Linss (Dan The Man). We spent that day and evening partying together and talking to all the people they knew. We were drinking his favorite beer, Grain Belt, from Minnesota. The next day, we did a photo shoot of John Jaikes’ purple KW, and it was perfect. Two great days with Erik and 10-4!” ~ Eric Hill, 10-4 Sales & Marketing since 2019
“He always took time to come to our booth at the shows, always smiling, and thankful for the articles I provide to the magazine.” ~ Bruce Mallinson, longtime advertiser and author of The Performance Zone since 2002
“Thank you and muchas gracias Erik for allowing me the opportunity to be part of the 10-4 Magazine family. As my boss, you were tough, dedicated and demanded the best, which is why 10-4 Magazine continues to be the best. You demonstrated kindness, gratitude and care to me and my family. You were a one-of-a-kind boss and mentor, and an example of hard work and dedication. I will always be grateful for the positive life-changing impact and kind words of encouragement that made being part of the 10-4 Magazine family special. Thank you for everything. We will always love you Erik.” ~ Teresa Franco, delivery driver since 2000
“At the Trucking for Kids show in 2010 in Irwindale, CA, I was impressed by the only man there who could stand flat-footed and stare into the windshield of my blue cabover Freightliner. That was the first time I got to meet Erik in person. Later, outside of Ellensburg, WA on my way to the big ATHS show held in Yakima that year, I was driving my white cabover Freightliner and came upon Dan and Erik. Dan was driving and Erik was hanging half out of the rental car, with his big camera, taking rolling shots of me. I can remember being at shows and wondering where Erik went, only to find him on a roof or up in a high lift getting overhead shots of the event. He was always super generous regarding buying us dinner or letting us use his golf cart. Erik was a cool guy and I will miss him greatly.” ~ Trevor Hardwick, author of Poetry in Motion since 2008
“I’ll never forget when I met Erik and Dan in Louisville, while they were doing a photo shoot out in the parking lot after MATS ended. Erik took my camera and inspected the lens. “You gotta keep that lens clean,” he said. I will always remember how when I called Erik, he would acknowledge me and praise me for what I did for the magazine. Then, he would ask, “How are you doing? Do you need anything? Is there anything I can do for you?” He was cool like that. I’m lucky to have had the opportunity to meet and hang out with him while I was in California. Erik made you part of the family. People behind the scenes of 10-4 Magazine are family!” ~ Frank Strohmyer, contributor
“The umbrella of life. We are all saddened by the passing of a friend to trucking and someone who stood as the core of an organization. I am one of the few who never had the pleasure of meeting Erik in person – at least I don’t think I did. I did, however, get to know him through the 10-4 family. My written words would be just paper fodder were it not for the opportunity extended to me by his staff. When talking with friends this week, I expressed my opinion of “Big E” like this: when I look at an umbrella, I see many parts working together to serve a common purpose. First, there is the handle – someone we grab onto and make connections with. The handle is firmly attached to the shaft, which gives structure and support to everything on top. This part is seldom seen, but everyone knows it’s there, or else the bonnet would blow away. Next, there is the top (the bonnet) – this is the most attractive part, because of its colorful appearance. This bonnet has staves or fingers that give it shape. Those staves are the office personnel who take the brunt of all storms and hold up under all weather conditions. Lastly, we come to the fabric that makes up the canopy, and that’s where I come in. I am only one of the countless colorful friends that bond together and stretch the bounds of human kindness. In our last conversation on the phone, Erik was still giving me words of encouragement and expressing his interest in the work of others. From this day forward, every time you use or see an umbrella, think of Erik and smile knowing he is looking down and smiling with us. Roll um easy, Big E.” ~ Dennis Mitchell, author of The Veteran’s View since July 2018
“Big E always wrote in his very sweet notes to me that he hoped we would meet in person one day. Well, unfortunately, that never happened. I’ll see you in heaven, Big E.” ~ Norma Stephens Hannigan, author of Health & Happiness since 2003
“Back when no other magazine would give me a chance, Erik and Dan gave me the opportunity to submit my photos and my first show report in 2016. I clearly recall getting a phone call from them on speakerphone while they were driving to Oregon for a photo shoot and talking about my possible involvement with the magazine. The most precious memory I have of Erik was in August of 2017 when he called me to personally congratulate me on earning my first cover for the September 2017 issue. Erik was larger than life and loved this industry I am passionate about. He was a mentor, friend and supporter who always made me feel special and important.” ~ Stephanie Haas, contributor
“I first met Erik some 16 or 17 years ago at the Las Vegas Truck Show. I was a 12-year-old kid, wet behind the ears, and in love with trucks to the point of obsession. Erik, along with Dan, saw a potential in me even I likely didn’t see yet, and opened a world of opportunity to me by making me part of the 10-4 Family. That faith in me became instrumental in my development in the industry and as an individual. In the simplest terms, I would not be where I am today without Erik Sieben and 10-4 Magazine. Erik, you will be missed, but never forgotten.” ~ Troy Miller, contributor
Last year before the Trucking for Kids show, John Jaikes and I were on the phone with Erik for over four hours. Erik wanted help choosing music for the event. He played songs that he liked, and he would play songs we suggested that he didn’t know, and we had a great time that night. Erik talked about his younger years, where he came from, and all the people who helped build the magazine and expand the distribution. I don’t know how many people today know that when the magazine started it was only available in California. Now, you can find racks in 25 states, and they get mailed throughout the world!
On April 10, 2019, Big E offered my man John Jaikes a ticket to join him at a Clippers basketball game in L.A. (the magazine has had awesome season tickets there for years) and for a night out on the town. They enjoyed a winning game with an ending score of Clippers 143, Utah Jazz 137. Erik said that John was like a lucky charm, since a previous game he attended they won, too. John will treasure those memories with Erik, because he had so much fun with him.
Rest in Peace, Erik Sieben. You are missed, but your positive influence will live on for years to come in the pages of 10-4. It’s not goodbye but see you down the road one day. Until then, 10-4 over and out, Big E!