The “Voice of CHAMPS” passed away at age 65 in Big Bear Lake California
On November 7th Peter Jesness, the co-founder of CHAMPS Trade Shows, passed away at his home in Big Bear Lake, CA following a yearlong battle with cancer. He was 65.
Peter was born in San Bernardino and spent most of his life as a resident of California. He enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1971 and served with 1st Armored Cavalry. Following his military service, he moved to the desert and attended Victor Valley College in Victorville, CA. Here, he met his wife Cheri Gage, a recording artist, to whom he was married until her death in 2011. Together, he and Cheri founded Gage Enterprises, attending trade shows and marketing such items as foot massage machines.
Peter met his future CHAMPS partner Jeff Hirschfeld in the ‘80s when they both worked as car salesmen at Universal City Nissan in Los Angeles. They became lifelong friends.
The duo founded Gage Water Pipes and invested heavily in the new company. When Gage and other pipe companies were abruptly closed out of a trade show in which they had intended to showcase Gage products, Peter and Jeff decided to mount their own trade show dedicated to the pipe industry. They debuted the C.T.A Show in Las Vegas in 1999. Over time, the name was changed to CHAMPS.
Jeff talks about his partner. “His favorite thing to do was buy breakfast for any and all at the Tuscany during our shows in Las Vegas. Everyone! Employees, customers, the Glass Games crew! When he gave his son Chris the down payment for his house, he said it was the happiest day of his life. He never cared about possessions. He’d drive a 10-year-old Nissan truck with 140,000 miles on it, but buy his partner Geraldine a new truck.”
Jeff calls Geraldine Greenstein “the second love of his life.”
Peter loved the hills of Jamaica and spent many happy times there with her.
Jeff continues, “We shared a common bond. We both lost our older brother to drugs in the late ‘70s. That kept us both in check, even though we both loved marijuana.”
Peter was universally liked, a quiet, friendly presence at CHAMPS shows. Long-time CHAMPS representative Michael Czerhoniak recalls, “When I joined the company, he was always reassuring, a calming voice. He’d always ask about my family. He wanted to make sure that I knew that the company appreciated me. He had that special ability to make people feel good.”
As the “Voice of CHAMPS,” show attendees will recall his sonorous, somewhat amusing announcements on the convention floor. Peter was saddened that his health prevented him from joining in the celebration CHAMPS’ twentieth year.
Because of his flowing mane, many assumed he was a hippie. His son Chris is quick to correct the notion: “He used to say, ‘How could I be a hippie? I joined the army!’ ”
Jeff, though, seems to disagree: “He was a very giving guy, the type who’d give you the shirt off his back.”
Peter was also an inventor and loved making things with his hands. He designed the RPM (Revolutionary Plant Mover), a grow machine for cannabis, for which he received a patent. He also made furniture. An avid outdoorsman, he loved driving deep into the wilderness in his 4-wheeler to cut wood. “Those are some of my best memories of him,” Chris says. “He wasn’t a beach guy. He was a mountains and hot springs kind of guy.”
Peter will be greatly missed. The co-founding of CHAMPS will always stand as a crowning achievement for him in the pantheon of legalization, a trade show that has championed the cannabis industry and grown with it. He is survived by his son Christopher and one grandson, as well as a stepdaughter.