Prominent auto dealer dies
Jennifer Lee Preyss
Feb. 13, 2011 at 10:05 p.m.
Updated Feb. 12, 2011 at 8:13 p.m.
TED WILKINSON CAREER HIGHLIGHTS
Born: Sept. 28, 1930 in Crosbyton and graduated Beaumont High School and attended Lamar University
Wilkinson was a master mason and a member of the Beaumont Tolerance Lodge No. 1165 AM and FM
Previously served in the U.S. Air Force as an airplane and engine mechanic.
Began auto sales career as a door-to-door car salesman with Holley Motor Company in Beaumont.
Purchased Pontiac, Buick, GMC Truck-Subaru dealership in Bryan, Texas in mid 70s.
In 1985, Wilkinson purchased Victoria Nissan franchise
In 1987, Wilkinson purchased Toyota dealership.
In 1988, Wilkinson acquired GMC Truck and Daihatsu franchise
In 1993, Wilkinson purchased Oldsmobile-Cadillac dealership.
In 1996, Wilkinson purchased Pontiac, Buick, Jeep, Eagle and Mazda.
In 2001, Wilkinson purchased Chevrolet franchise.
In October 2006, Wilkinson retired.
In 2010, Wilkinson opened final dealership Wilkinson Pre-Owned SuperCenter.
*Dealerships listed have been sold, except Pre-Owned SuperCenter
His family will agree, Ted Wilkinson did things his own way. So much so, that Wilkinson's memorial service at Rosewood Funeral Home concluded Sunday afternoon with Frank Sinatra's "My Way."
It was Wilkinson's way that allowed the prominent Victoria-based car dealer to carve out a continued success in the auto sales industry for more than 50 years.
"My husband would hire people who knew the business, but mostly he hired green peas so he could train them his way," Wilkinson's wife of 42 years, Lisa Wilkinson, said smiling. "He did things his way."
Wilkinson's auto sales resume included a lifetime of profitable business transactions, including purchasing and selling multiple car dealerships. In the 1970s, he purchased his first dealership, a Pontiac-Buick-GMC Truck-Subaru in Bryan, which he owned for 10 years. When Wilkinson relocated to Victoria in 1985, he acquired the Victoria Nissan franchise, and two years later, the Toyota dealership. Later, against the advice of everyone, Wilkinson added the GMC Truck and Daihatsu franchises to his Nissan franchise, and surprised naysayers when it turned out to be an advantageous business move.
"Everyone thought he was foolish for buying the GMC trucks, but things changed for us after that. Business really started taking off," Lisa Wilkinson said.
But Wilkinson wasn't merely a success in business. He was a committed husband, father and grandfather, and will be forever remembered as loyal, generous, and the quintessential provider.
"One of his biggest fears and recurring nightmares he had was that he would be fired from his job and not be able to find another job to take care of his family," Lisa Wilkinson said. "He was driven to take care of his family and loyal to his friends and employees. He was a protector. He was a provider."
He was also a man who loved his five children, 10 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren, spending every available moment making sure they knew grandpa loved them.
"He loved his children very much. And he loved being a grandfather," Lisa Wilkinson recalled.
Wilkinson's death at his Victoria home on Friday was sadly expected. His six-year battle with Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease forced the ambitious businessman to slow down.
But even while enduring the side effects of his illness, Wilkinson's passion for auto sales never dwindled.
"He wanted to purchase the SuperCenter store, and we're going to make it a success for him, since it's what he wanted," Lisa Wilkinson said, referring to the Wilkinson Pre-Owned SuperCenter store that opened several months ago on Navarro Street. "That's his legacy and we want to carry it on."
A burial service for Wilkinson will be held Monday at 10 a.m. at Memory Gardens cemetery.