In Loving Memory of Don Ackerman 1926-2012
Prominent Las Vegas automobile dealer Don Ackerman, former owner of Gaudin Ford, died in his sleep Sunday night. He had just turned 86 in September.
His son, Gary Ackerman, said his father had suffered a massive stroke in 1983 that affected his memory and had undergone two heart procedures, including the implant of a pacemaker.
Don Ackerman married Jeanne Gaudin, daughter of auto dealer George Gaudin, after graduating from the University of California-Berkeley and went to work for his father-in-law in Salinas, Calif.
He came to Las Vegas in 1955 to run Gaudin's store at Las Vegas Boulevard and Stewart Avenue, then designed and built a new Ford dealership at Charleston and Las Vegas boulevards in 1963.
That dealership stood until 1979, when Gaudin Ford broke ground on its flagship store at 2121 E. Sahara Ave. Don Ackerman sold the dealership to his son in 1996.
"I'm a very lucky son and a very emotional man," Gary Ackerman said Wednesday. "My dad was my best friend. In today's world, there aren't a lot of sons who get to work at dad's side for 38 years. I miss him as my father, I miss him as my mentor, and I miss him as my friend."
Ackerman said it would take an entire edition of the Review-Journal to tell how much he learned about the automobile industry from his father. He went to his dad for a job after college and was told he lacked experience.
"You want to get in the car business? Go get a job and see if you like the business and come back when you have a resume," the father told his son. "I was just stunned. He said, 'You've got to trust me.' There were 10 new car dealerships in Las Vegas, and they all knew each other. Who the hell's going to hire Ackerman's kid if he won't hire him?"
Gary Ackerman went to work for Galpin Ford, one of the largest dealerships in Southern California, before returning to Las Vegas to manage Gaudin Ford.
Another lesson he learned from his dad is to keep business matters separate from family. Ackerman recalls borrowing $500 from his dad during his freshman year in college.
"The day he told me to go find a job, he pulled a card out of his desk that I had signed and agreed to pay back the money with interest. He waived the interest because it was Christmas and made me pay the $500 before I left his office," Gary Ackerman said.
Don Ackerman will be remembered as one of the "iconic" car dealers in Las Vegas with James Cashman Jr., Pete Findlay, Bill Heinrich, Pat Clark Sr. and Ted Worthen, his son said. They carried the industry into the future, Ackerman said.
"What my dad taught me ... the biggest word is integrity. There was no place in our industry for dishonesty. There were no TVs, no radio in rural Northern California where he learned the business. You literally survived by word of mouth," he said.
Memorial services for Don Ackerman are scheduled for 11 a.m. Nov. 3 at Palm Mortuary, 7600 S. Eastern Ave. In lieu of flowers, the family is asking that donations be made to the UNLV Foundation in Don Ackerman's name.
In addition to his son, Gary, Ackerman is survived by his second wife, Elizabeth; daughter, Deborah Ackerman, of Dallas; and four grandchildren.
This article is from the Las Vegas review Journal