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Vans shoes co-founder James Van Doren dies at 72

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The co-founder of Vans shoes, James Van Doren, has died in Fullerton at the age of 72.

The Van Doren Rubber Co.'s canvas deck shoes became favorites of the burgeoning skateboard culture because of sticky rubber soles that helped skaters grip their boards.

They got national exposure when Sean Penn wore Vans in the 1982 movie "Fast Times at Ridgemont High." Vans' simple skate shoes quickly exploded with creative designs, artistic collaborations and new patterns.

Van Doren's wife, Char, tells the Los Angeles Times that her husband died at his Fullerton home on Oct. 12 after a lengthy illness. A memorial mass is planned Friday at Fullerton's St. Juliana Falconieri Church.

Van Doren and his older brother Paul began selling shoes in 1966.

James Van Doren guided the Cypress, Calif., company through the checkerboard era of the deck shoes. He ran Vans from 1976 to 1984.

"He was a mechanic, a chemist, the brains behind the early shoe," his nephew, Steve Van Doren, told the Times.

Steve Van Doren is one of several family members who still work for the company. "In his garage, he made all the molds for the very first soles," Steve Van Doren said, including the trademark waffle design.