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A Father’s Day Tribute

Lee Gartner

In honor of Father’s Day, I would like to dedicate this blog to the memory of my dad who passed away eight years ago on June 13, 2009. He was a young 88 years old and worked up until just two weeks before he died. Ernest Lee Gartner, who married Lewis Reed’s daughter, Mary Jane, joined Reed Brothers Dodge in 1949.

When Lewis Reed passed away on January 28, 1967, my dad continued the business as Dealer Principal making Reed Brothers Dodge a second generation dealer. Representing the 2nd generation, he took on a new set of challenges. When the state widened the roads in 1970, he purchased 4.37 acres of land from Eugene Casey and relocated Reed Brothers Dodge from its original location at the intersection of Veirs Mill Road and Rockville Pike to a new state-of-the-art showroom and Dodge/Chrysler/Jeep service complex on Route 355 at 15955 Frederick Road Rockville Maryland.

In comparison to Lewis Reed, whose dealership survived through World War I, The Great Depression and World War II, Lee Gartner successfully navigated Reed Brothers Dodge through numerous Chrysler setbacks during the 1970’s and 80’s, including the first Chrysler Bailout, the sale of Chrysler to Daimler, and the sale to the private equity firm Cerberus. He applied his 30+ years experience with Reed Brothers to meet the challenges of gasoline shortages, high interest rates, severe inflation, and weakening consumer confidence which drove Chrysler into financial crisis. This survival is testimony that he not only conquered setbacks, but often rebounded to reach new levels of success. These are pretty remarkable things.

My dad succumbed to metastatic melanoma on June 13, 2009, just four days after the loss of the family’s Dodge franchise. Though he later ceded control to his sons, he rarely missed a day of work. Until his untimely death, he was a fixture at the dealership and could be seen around just about every day watering flowers, reading his newspaper, walking through the shop, and greeting friends and customers in the showroom. The word “retirement” was not in my dad’s vocabulary. He showed no signs of stepping away from the dealership that he helped build for more than 60 years. He remained Chairman of the Board until his death.

I will always remember my dad as a successful businessman whose persistent energy was always there for family first, but in equal measure for the public he served. He was smart and also honest and dependable – characteristics that kept Reed Brothers Dodge at the pinnacle of auto dealerships throughout his career.

I never had a chance to tell my dad how much I admired him, but I remain proud of him and his accomplishments. Lee Gartner continued what Lewis Reed built from the ground up and helped make Reed Brothers Dodge into a successful family business that lasted almost a century.

I think of you, Dad, every day. For all who read this post, if you are lucky enough to still have your father with you, honor and treasure him, if not, remember him with a happy thought and a prayer for all he gave you.

Happy Father’s Day.

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Dedication to Lewis Reed

Lewis Reed

Lewis Reed

I called him “Pop”

Today marks my grandfather’s birthday. Lewis Reed was born in Darnestown, Maryland on November 25, 1887 and was the founder of Reed Brothers Dodge. My grandfather was an amazing man, and he taught me many things during my 17 years of childhood. It’s safe to say out of all the people in my lifetime, my grandfather was one of the most influential people in my life. If he were still around, he would be 128 years old today.

In this special post, I thought I’d take a moment to recount a few of the wonderful memories my grandfather has given me that has helped make me into the person I am today.

Work Ethic

I’ve never met a man who worked harder than my grandfather and I’ve tried to emulate that admirable quality. He went to work every day until the day he died. Some people might have called him a workaholic, but he never gave anything less than 100% to a job or task. He has handed down his natural leadership abilities, which have helped me achieve a number of career “firsts” while I was with the The United States Air Force Band, and ultimately reach the top enlisted position as the first female Command Chief of a premier Air Force unit.

Lead by Example

Growing up in the car business, one of my favorite things to do as a kid was to go to the dealership with my grandfather on weekends. My grandfather was always on the showroom floor or walking around the dealership talking with customers and the employees. What I didn’t know at the time, was that by being accessible and not spending a lot of time in his office behind a desk, he was actually building rapport and trust with his customers and employees. Because of this, I always tried to make myself visible to my co-workers and not be seen as a leader that managed from a distance.

Learning to Change a Flat Tire

This is one of life’s lessons he taught me and one I will never forget. While most little girls were handed a box of Crayola Crayons and a Cinderella coloring book, my grandfather proposed some quality time to teach me how to change a tire. Somehow, the tire on his car had gone flat while sitting in the garage. He taught me step-by-step how to change the flat tire. I’m certainly no expert by any stretch of the imagination, but I am very grateful to him for seeing the value in teaching me this.

Shooting a Gun

My grandfather taught me how to shoot a .22 rifle back in the 1960’s when I was a teenager. He spent time showing me how to operate the gun, the safety rules of handling the gun, how to aim, and how to slowly pull, not jerk, the trigger. He used to let me shoot the rifle in the basement of his house. I would fire though the door from one end of the finished basement into the unfinished part into a huge block of wood with a paper target on it that would (hopefully) catch the bullet.

Knack for Fixing Things

I seemed to have inherited my grandfather’s knack for fixing things … AND taking them apart. When I got a little older he gave me access to his tools and taught me how to use them. Because of him, when I was about about 14 years old, I completely disassembled and reinstalled all the keys on my brand new saxophone. Oddly, this later led me into a larger role of repairing musical instruments for a local Music & Arts Studio.

Learning to Drive

My grandfather taught me how to drive a car even before I was able to see over the top of the steering wheel. He used to let me reach my foot over from the middle passenger seat to push on the gas pedal. Soon after, he let me sit on his lap and steer. I was barely able to see over the steering wheel, but while he was working the clutch and brake, I was driving!

Work Hard and Don’t Quit

My grandfather’s greatest gift to me was the drive to persevere. When you look back and consider what has taken place in the world in the past 100 years or so, you gain a perspective of what my grandfather faced. He overcame a lot of obstacles throughout his life. He steered his dealership through World War I, The Great Depression and World War II. When Reed Brothers had no new cars to sell for three and a half years and many dealers went bankrupt, he converted his car showroom into a display room and sold GE washing machines and other appliances. That was proof for me that anything is possible. This example taught me to run with my dreams and never give up. No matter how many times people say it can’t be done, I’ve learned to always follow my dreams.

Conclusion

There are several things that can be done with a person’s legacy. We can completely forget it. We can constantly recount it while never emulating it. Or, we can evaluate it, sift it out, and reap the rewards of putting the positive lessons into practice in our own lives. My grandfather has been gone many years now (48 to be exact). But, he is never gone from my heart. What my grandfather taught me as I grew up — some just very simple things; others are very valuable life lessons that I will never forget. Thanks, Pop!

A Tribute to My Dad

Father's Day Tribute

Ernest Lee Gartner January 12, 1921 – June 13, 2009

In honor of Father’s Day, I would like to dedicate this blog to the memory of my dad who passed away five years ago on June 13, 2009. Ernest Lee Gartner, who married Lewis Reed’s daughter, Mary Jane, joined Reed Brothers Dodge in 1949. My father was a kindhearted, stubborn, difficult, witty, and an amazingly savvy businessman. I’ve had five years now to look back at his life, and as I do, I see his strengths and his weaknesses realistically. I am more than glad for those strengths. My dad gave me his strong points and showed me the blueprint for how to be successful: including a strong work ethic and instilling within me the belief that I can achieve whatever it is that I desire.

My dad taught me courage in the face of adversity, more than any other human being I have ever met. He was a hard worker, he was the type that persevered. I long ago forgave his faults and shortcomings, choosing instead to focus on the good he did for me, for my mom, my siblings and for a lot of other people as well.

When Lewis Reed passed away on January 28, 1967, my dad continued the business as Dealer Principal making Reed Brothers Dodge a second generation dealer. Representing the 2nd generation, my dad took on a new set of challenges. When the state widened the roads in 1970, he purchased 4.37 acres of land from Eugene Casey and relocated Reed Brothers Dodge from its original location at the intersection of Veirs Mill Road and Rockville Pike to a new state-of-the-art showroom and Dodge/Chrysler/Jeep service complex on Route 355 at 15955 Frederick Road Rockville Maryland.

In comparison to Lewis Reed, whose dealership survived through World War I, The Great Depression and World War II, Lee Gartner successfully navigated Reed Brothers Dodge through numerous Chrysler setbacks during the 1970’s and 80’s, including the first Chrysler Bailout, the sale of Chrysler to Daimler, and the sale to the private equity firm Cerberus. He applied his 30+ years experience with Reed Brothers to meet the challenges of gasoline shortages, high interest rates, severe inflation, and weakening consumer confidence which drove Chrysler into financial crisis. This survival is testimony that he not only conquered setbacks, but often rebounded to reach new levels of success. These are pretty remarkable things.

My dad succumbed to metastatic melanoma on June 13, 2009, just four days after the loss of the family’s Dodge franchise. Though he later ceded control to his sons, he rarely missed a day of work. Until his untimely death, he was a fixture at the dealership and could be seen around just about every day watering flowers, reading his newspaper, walking through the shop, and greeting friends and customers in the showroom. The word “retirement” was not in my dad’s vocabulary. He showed no signs of stepping away from the dealership that he helped build for more than 60 years. He remained Chairman of the Board until his death.

I will always remember my dad as a successful businessman whose persistent energy was always there for family first, but in equal measure for the public he served. He was smart and also honest and dependable – characteristics that kept Reed Brothers Dodge at the pinnacle of auto dealerships throughout his career. Men like him are few and far between.

I never had a chance to tell my dad how much I admired him, but I remain proud of him and his accomplishments. Lee Gartner continued what Lewis Reed built from the ground up and helped make Reed Brothers Dodge into a successful family business that lasted almost a century.

I think of you, Dad, every day. For all who read this post, if you are lucky enough to still have your father with you, honor and treasure him, if not, remember him with a happy thought and a prayer for all he gave you.

Happy Father’s Day.

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