It's been a sad year for many in the auto industry.
To the earlier losses of Charlie Saladin (St. James Volkswagen/Audi founder), Dave Dveris (Park Pontiac Buick founder) and Marcel Thompson (Frontier Toyota), we now add Joe Rewucki, founder of Eastern Chrysler Dodge Jeep, who passed away last weekend at the age of 87.
There are very few people in the Manitoba auto industry who have been around as long as Joe Rewucki. Raised on a family farm just north of Winnipeg, Rewucki, his father Andrew, and brother-in-law John Gusnoski became Chrysler dealers in 1946 when they bought an existing combination Chrysler and John Deere store in Beausjour. The family opened their Chrysler store in Winnipeg in 1957, across the street from the current location at the corner of Main Street and Leila Avenue which they bought in 1966. At one point, the Rewucki family operated three Chrysler stores in Winnipeg, Selkirk and Beausejour, as well as two John Deere stores.
Joe Rewucki was also a leader in the auto industry both locally and nationally. He had served as president of the Manitoba Motor Dealers Association, Chrysler Canada's Regional Dealer Council and the manufacturer's National Dealer Council.
But Rewucki never strayed far from his roots. It was that tradition of country hospitality that played a major part in his success.
As a fellow Chrysler dealer, Ike Vickar knew Rewucki for more than 40 years.
"Despite being competitors, we were always good friends," said fellow Chrysler dealer Vickar, who knew Rewucki for more than 40 years. "We kept in touch over the years. Joe was a good citizen and a good human being. It's sad to see him go."
"Joe was a real gentleman," added Steve Dennis, vice-president and co-dealer principal at Waverley Chrysler Dodge Jeep, who knew Rewucki was more than 20 years.
"He always had a logical point of view on any question. The dealership community and the larger community are going to miss him."
Sadly, Rewucki's passing was not the only blow suffered by Eastern Chrysler's staff over the past two weeks. On Sept. 18, sales manager Eric Bueckert loss his wife, Colleen, who was just 54. And about a week earlier, sales rep Norm Levine's 30-year-old daughter, Heather, was killed in a tragic accident in Vancouver.
"Our staff has been so supportive in this time of loss for our family, as well as Eric and Norm," said Joe Rewucki's daughter, Marietta, who is the dealership's president. "We are all looking after each other."
St. James Volkswagen Audi show-and-shine this Sunday
This Sunday afternoon, St. James Volkswagen/Audi is hosting its second annual show and shine charity car show at the dealership at 670 Century St. Eric Klatt, the show organizer (and St. James' parts manager) said this is Winnipeg's only European-model-only show-and-shine event.
"The turnout was spectacular last year," Klatt said. "We had 75 models on display. This year, registration is ahead of last year. We are hoping to have 100 models on display on Sunday."
Last year, the event raised money for Hunger for Hope. The funds from Sunday's show-and-shine will be donated to the Siloam Mission.
The afternoon will also feature a barbecue, children's activities and prizes for the winning entries.