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Founder of Bob Johnson Chevrolet dies at 84

Businessman and philanthropist Robert “Bob” Johnson died past week in Sarasota, Florida. He was 84.

Born and lifted in Chicago, Mr. Johnson grew to become a well known businessman and proprietor of Bob Johnson Chevrolet, a minority-owned automobile dealership.

Mr. Johnson sold vast majority possession of the vehicle team to his longtime employee Greg Stahl in 2001 and retired to Florida the next calendar year. The Bob Johnson Vehicle Team, started in 1981, now has 17 destinations, most of which are located inside of the Rochester region. With extra than 1,200 personnel, it is 1 of the greatest household-owned dealership groups in the nation.

The enterprise, owned by Stahl and John Love, consistently finds itself on the Larger Rochester Chamber Best 100 record every single calendar year. The list ranks Rochester’s swiftest-developing corporations, and Bob Johnson was rated No. 11 in 2020. 

In a 2003 Democrat and Chronicle report, Mr. Johnson reported his proudest honor came in 1998 when he was nominated by the New York State Auto Sellers Affiliation for Time magazine’s Excellent Supplier Award. Standards for the award incorporates product sales, management, profitability and purchaser gratification.

Fellow car dealers summed up Mr. Johnson’s career in one term: integrity.

“Bob was just a course act,” stated Brad McAreavy, president of the Rochester Automobile Sellers Affiliation, who to start with achieved Mr. Johnson in 1998. “He was a very first-course gentleman and a quite easy-likely male.”

Typically, his friends reported, he would quietly assistance persons in need to have — employees, friends and strangers.

Mr. Johnson still left superior school at 17 to sign up for the U.S. Air Force and received an honorable discharge soon after serving for four several years. After he concluded his GED, he enrolled in junior college and later acquired his bachelor’s diploma in company management and accounting.

The tipping position in his qualified existence arrived when he bought a new automobile from an African-American close friend who owned a dealership in Wisconsin, in accordance to a news release about Mr. Johnson from his alma mater, SUNY’s Empire Condition College. The transaction impressed his entrepreneurial spirit. Immediately after he accomplished a two-calendar year coaching plan with a Chevrolet dealership in Indiana, Mr. Johnson was awarded a Chevy franchise in Buffalo, which he relocated to Rochester in 1985.  

Former Rochester Mayor Bill Johnson, who was not similar to Mr. Johnson, claimed the two first satisfied in the mid 80s and that just after going to Rochester, his late close friend swiftly grew to become associated and engaged in the neighborhood and devoted himself to setting up his organization.

“He was a incredibly pleasant guy, which is atypical as a businessman,” Bill Johnson stated. “He was always upbeat and favourable. Which is how he lived his everyday living and how he done his business enterprise.”

Invoice Johnson laughed as he recalled how he is often mistaken for his late good friend.

“Persons appear up to me and tell me, ‘I know you. You’re Bob Johnson,'” Bill Johnson mentioned. “I say no, but that I wish I was. He would be the form of father and brother anyone would want to have.”

Immediately after Mr. Johnson moved to Florida, the two males kept in contact and spoke consistently. Each and every spring, Invoice Johnson said he would check out his buddy in Sarasota as he traveled south for baseball’s spring instruction. 

Laura Barnett remembered her father Mr. Johnson as a loving and affectionate guy who liked to giggle. He was bold, hard-working and often inclined to study, but was also personable and welcoming, said Barnett, who also lives in Florida. 

“Father aided me to find out and working experience new issues through our holiday vacation time,” she reported, adding how considerably he beloved to travel about the environment.

Mr. Johnson has served on 3 school boards: the Empire Point out Higher education of New York, Nazareth College or university in Pittsford and Ringling University of Arts and Structure in Sarasota, Florida. Mr. Johnson and his late spouse Carol designed a scholarship for minority students with economic want to go to the SUNY university. In 2014, the Empire Condition College honored him with its Citizen Laureate Award.

He was also a longtime board member of the City League of Rochester.

Mr. Johnson had a pilot’s license, and his own airplane, in accordance to his obituary.

Longtime good friend Eleanor Whitte of Rochester recalled her 1st time traveling with Mr. Johnson in his personal plane as he served as a co-pilot.

“He showed me all of the devices, took off then turned close to and commenced conversing to me,” she explained. “‘Who’s traveling the airplane? Shouldn’t you be keeping your eyes on the highway?’ I asked and he just laughed. It was a wonderful working experience.”

Whitte satisfied Mr. Johnson “several years back” through his late spouse Carol. The two remained mates just after he moved to Florida. She consistently visited him in Florida and recalled that “he’d always have you laughing.”

“He was a outstanding man — extremely generous and humble,” she claimed. “He cherished his buddies back again in Rochester.” 

On his final pay a visit to to Rochester, in 2014, he designed certain to take a look at good friends and former workforce back again at the dealership, she said. That’s just who he was, Whitte stated.

Mr. Johnson is survived by his spouse Barbara, son Craig Johnson, daughter Laura Barnett, sisters Velma Ponds and Marlene Johnson, several grandchildren and wonderful-grandchildren and quite a few other kin. Funeral companies will be held privately.

Contact Victoria Freile at Comply with her on Twitter @vfreile and Instagram @vfreile. This coverage is only possible with support from our visitors.  

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