Automatic Equipment Manufacturing and Blue Ox CEO, president and chairman of the board Jay Hesse lost a long battle with cancer Sunday at a Sioux City hospital.

He was 61.

The third generation owner of the 88-year-old company is credited with finding new and innovative sources of revenue during his many years in leadership roles, including a key move into the recreational vehicle after-market in 1984 as the agricultural market that was the business’ roots struggled.

He will be laid to rest at Rose Hill Cemetery today (Thursday) following an 11 a.m. funeral service at Heese Event Center.

The company announced its succession plans Tuesday consistent with Jay’s wishes and with his strategic direction for the business in mind.

Ellen Kietzmann will assume the roles of CEO and president of the company. Her 20 years of experience working side-by-side with Jay and within the industry has made her uniquely qualified. Mike Hesse and Sandy Hesse, along with Kietzmann, will round out the company’s board of directors.

“Everyone at Blue Ox looks forward to serving the needs of our customers and continuing the company’s growth with this leadership team in place,” Kietzmann said.