1998 Hall of Fame


Art Ekern
Charter: Stansfield Vending – LaCrosse, Wisconsin

Ekern has captured several local and state tournament titles throughout his many years of play with the VNEA.

From 1984-1990, Ekern served as the league coordinator for Stansfield Vending’s league system. Art has continued to promote numerous teams as the owner of Top Shots Pool & Darts.

Art has also served as the Secretary of the local league in which he actively participates.

Art was also one of the first sanctioned VNEA League Players to record a Perfect Match-30 Zip on December 1st, 1982.
As the captain of the famed "Hondo’s Bar" team at the 1981 International Championships in Rochester, Minnesota, Art was a member of the first VNEA Int’l Men’s Division Team Champion in the history of this prestigious organization. Art and his team set the standard for the thousands of teams which would later vow for their title.

"It has been a pleasure both helping and watching the VNEA blossom into the premier association that it is today." – Art Ekern


Manuel Gonzales Jr.
Charter: High Country/TD Rowe – Ft. Collins, Colorado

Manuel is a long time member of the VNEA and has served as the captain of numerous teams throughout his pool career. He furthers his involvement with the leagues by assisting in local tournament activity and spending time helping others increase their skill level.

In 1994 and 1997, Manuel’s Mens A team placed 2nd and 1st, respectively, at the coveted Rocky Mountain Team Tournaments. He also captured 1st place in Open A/AA Singles at the 1996 High Country/TD Rowe 1st Annual Pool Tournament. Since 1970, Manuel has absorbed many local honors.
Like a number of other talented VNEA pool players have done, Manuel has completed the VNEA Certified Referee School and has used his certification to raise the level of professionalism displayed at his local events by promoting accuracy in call making.

"My most memorable moment in the VNEA was in 1997 at the Int’l Championships in Las Vegas when my son Manuel Gonzales III and his team finished first in the Open Team Division." – Manuel Gonzales Jr.


James Rohde
Charter: High Country Games – Laramie, Wyoming

Rohde has always believed in promoting fair competition at every level. Throughout his career, he has accumulated over 25 plaques and trophies from various leagues and tournaments in the Laramie area.

For over 15 years, Rohde served as his team’s captain. Jim also stays very active by volunteering to set up for tournaments in the local area as well as the Int’l Championships.

Throughout his career at the VNEA International Championships, Jim has had his share of success. Placing in the top 32 of the Men’s Masters Singles Division on more than one occasion makes Jim a force to be reckoned with in the VNEA.

"I’ve watched the VNEA grow by leaps and bounds over the years and it still feels like family. A well organized ‘large’ family." - James Rohde

Don Soper
Charter: Automatic Vendors – Pierre, South Dakota

Don has been seen conducting numerous "How to Play Pool" seminars for young pool enthusiasts in the Pierre area.

Soper has captained multiple winning teams in his leagues. In 1986, his team went undefeated to claim the title. Don’s team took their talent to the state level and captured titles in 1989, 1993, and 1996. They also possess two 2nd and 3rd place finishes.
In 1996, Soper’s team finished in 1st place and reinforced the respect of their peers by taking home the coveted ‘Governor’s Cup.’

Don’s International Championship Accomplishments include: 1985 – 9/12th place Open Team; 1986 – 9/12th place 8-Ball Singles; 1992 – 3/4th place Seniors Singles

"I can’t pick one particular ‘most memorable moment’ in the VNEA, but I can say that over the last 18 years of league participation, I have enjoyed every minute." – Don Soper


Dion Watson
Charter: Varner Vending - Ft. Smith, Arkansas

Dion spends a lot of time promoting leagues to lady players trying to increase their involvement in traveling to different cities and even states to compete in pool tournaments.

Conducting pool lessons for young people as well as doing Trick Shot Exhibitions for the United Way and other special causes keeps Dion well connected in the community.

Dion has served as team captain of her long-time team "The Lady Sharks" for many years.

In 1982, Dion was featured in Sports Illustrated’s "Faces In The Crowd" section.

In 1985, this Hall of Famer was chosen to grace the cover of Pool & Billiard magazine.

"My most memorable moment in the VNEA was when I was elected to the 2nd Team ‘All Star Team’ at the 15th Anniversary VNEA Int’l Championships" – Dion Watson