True Stories From A Former Car Dealer #39: Regrets

Iíve talked on air and in previous True Stories about the fact that I lost my son five years ago this past August. When it came the excruciating time to plan the service, music had to be picked.

B.J. was like me in many ways. He lived his life to the fullest, wasnít afraid to take risks, and he worked hard every day. Most months, on the floor of Five Star Ford in Carrollton, he ended the month at the top of the sales board. He even broke my all-time sales record.

Jerry Reynolds II
Jerryís son, Jerry ďB.J.Ē Reynolds II

For the final song of his service, I chose My Way by Frank Sinatra. It just seemed right for him:

And now, the end is near, and so I face the final curtain.
My friend, Iíll say it clear, Iíll state my case, of which Iím certain.

Iíve lived a life thatís full, Iíve traveled each and every highway
And more, much more than this, I did it my way.

Regrets, Iíve had a few, but then again, too few to mention.
I did what I had to do, and saw it through without exemption.

I planned each charted course, each careful step along the byway.
And more, much more than this, I did it my wa.y

Yes, there were times, Iím sure you knew, when I bit off more than I could chew, but through it all, when there was doubt
I ate it up and spit it out, I faced it all and I stood tall, and did it my way.

Iíve loved, Iíve laughed and cried, Iíve had my fill, my share of losing.
And now, as tears subside, I find it all, all so amusing.

To think I did all that ,and may I say, not in a shy way.
Oh no, no, not me, I did it my way.

For what is man, what has he got? If not himself, then he has naught.
To say the things he truly feels, and not the words of one who kneels.
The record shows I took the blows, and did it my way.

If you would like to read the words about his life, written by me, you can do so here:

Writing these stories has made me reflect back on my own life, my career, my triumphs, and my failures. After much thought about the question: ďDo I have regrets?Ē Yes, but like the song says, too few to mention.

Financially, I regret buying that Buick dealership, (True Story #37) that set me back, but at the same time, it was a learning experience that actually paid dividends down the road.

Some said I was too loyal to my employees over the years. There is probably truth in that; I know I had some people take advantage of me. Some of my people got lazy and complacent, but they were loyal to me and you could not replace that. This is not a regret.

I gave three years of my life to the Ford National Dealer Council for the good of a lot of Ford dealers I never even met. I was away from my business, my family, and it was taxing on me physically and mentally. However, we accomplished much, and for this reason, this is not a regret.

I wrote about the difficult decision to sell my dealerships. There have been a few times I questioned myself on doing that, but then I remember back to how I felt at the time. I was beat up, mostly mentally, and did not look forward to going to work anymore. Itís easy to second guess after the fact, especially as good as the car business has been the past five or so years, but it was the right thing to do, so no regrets there.

Some regrets you cannot control, yet they are still regrets. My Dad was a truck driver by trade, but when he wasnít on the road, he bought and sold used cars. Mostly he sold to other dealers, but he sold one car or so per week from the newspaper. I regret he never got to see the Ford dealership I built. He passed away while it was under construction.

One of my plans was to train my son to take my place on the radio show, so the show could live on. When I had back surgery in 2003, then later had cancer surgery, I had B.J. sit in with Kevin and one of our DFW dealers to answer questions while I was out. The kid was a natural, no doubt he would have been great, and I say that without bias. I truly regret that dream could not become a reality.

There were missed business opportunities over the years. When I was in my early 20s, a guy I knew talked to me about investing in a fast food franchise that was just beginning. I trusted the guy but knew nothing about the food business, and frankly, it sounded too good to be true. It wasnít, he bought and later sold a dozen or so Subway sandwich shops. I sort of regret not jumping on board.

An even bigger miss happened in the early 1980s. A guy I knew and had done business with named Al approached me. He had a small car audio business near the first dealership I ever worked at. He was a savvy guy with an amazing work ethic, and it appeared he had been very successful.

He came to my office around 1982 and sat down for a meeting. I hadnít seen him in a couple of years, so wasnít sure what we were meeting about. He was looking for an investor and someone to help him run a new business venture.

He then said words that shocked me: ďSomeday, everyone in America will have a phone they carry that doesnít have a cord.Ē I thought for sure heíd lost his mind. Cell phones were not on the radar at the time, I had never heard of them, and the thought of a communication device with no wires seemed as likely as a flying car.

He had somehow obtained the rights to the very first cell towers in Dallas-Fort Worth. I regrettably passed on the opportunity, and as they say, the rest is history. He eventually sold the company and retired, building a home north of Dallas called Champ Dí Or, a 48,000 square foot, 57-room mansion that cost 52 million dollars to build. You can see it here:

Yes, that was a screw-up of massive proportions, but who knows how that would have changed the course of history.

The biggest regret in all those years came from a terribly unlikely source. It was a used car salesperson who worked for me, named Joe. Joe worked for me for a number of years, had an amazing attitude, never met a stranger, and was very good at selling cars. He had a wife and several kids I met at the childrenís Christmas party I described in True Story #31.

At around this same time, my wife was on the Board of a local charity called the New Beginning Center. Its purpose was to provide a safe place for victims of domestic violence. They provided housing, job placement, and a place to transition away from abusers, usually men. For many years, I let the Board use my conference room at my dealership for their meetings, and use our home for fundraisers.

EMCEE Jerry Reynolds

The charity is still there today, and in fact, I emceed a fashion show for them recently. Back in the day, I supported them financially, and we made a large contribution so they could open a computer lab to teach the residents of the home computer skills. That room was dedicated in our name, but I could not see it, the safe house location was an incredibly guarded secret.

One day back at the dealership someone told me Joe had quit. I asked why, but nobody knew. He called in and told his manager he would not be back. It was very puzzling; Joe seemed to be on top of the world.

At an annual big function for the New Beginning Center, there was typically a live auction, a silent auction, and we heard from one of the victims whom the center had helped. This was always my favorite part, to see the good that was done and the lives that were changed.

Before the event started, a lady came up to me and asked if I remembered her. It took me a minute, but I realized it was Joeís wife, Carol. Before I could ask why Joe quit and what he was doing, she had tears in her eyes and asked me the horrifying words: ďWhy didnít you tell me?Ē

I was stunned and didnít know what to say, except: ďTell you what?Ē

She went on to tell me Joe had repeatedly beaten her. Somehow, sadly, she felt like I knew that and did nothing. She had gotten up the nerve to call the police and Joe was arrested, and eventually went to prison for the brutal beatings. I was later told by her that he died in prison.

How could I not know? How could my people who worked with him not know? Nobody did, nobody suspected a thing.

I was horrified and haunted by her question and I explained to her I had no idea he was a monster, or he wouldnít have worked for me a minute. Carol was the speaker at the event that night and gave the excruciating details of the hell she had endured for many years.

This was the face of domestic violence.

Looking back, the biggest regret of my career was not recognizing the signs. Some signs were there, but none of us knew what they were at the time. Of all the things I could change in my career, this is the one I wish I could reverse. To not be able to get her out of that situation sooner is a regret Iíll take to the grave.

Photo Credit: alexmillos/Shutterstock
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You know Jerry, the phrase you quoted above, "For what is man, what has he got? If not himself, then he has naught", is certainly correct. The old-English and even ancient way of stating "self" is the word "soul", meaning the seat of the will, intellect, and emotion, which today we may sometimes call the "mind". With that meaning in consideration I offer a clear statement from an ancient document which has had more impact on more human lives than any other ever written: "For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?" You can find a link to a wider context of that statement here -
and here -
The Car Pro
Thank you for sharing such a compelling statement and link, it is much appreciated.

Jerry Reynolds
Jerry - There is no need to post this comment, unless you simply wish to do so. God's Word is absolutely definitive, unequivocal, and clear that "doing it our way" leads to losing our only soul", which means losing all control of our core self for all eternity. To avoid that irrevocable, eternal loss it is necessary that we "do it God's way"; and trust in the living Son of God. Jesus IS God's way. I do not mean to inflict pain with that true statement which is not dependent on my opinion or anyone's opinion. 2+1=3 whether we choose to believe it or not, and so much more so when God's clear statements are concerned.
The Car Pro
Thank you sir. I appreciate you being in the family and your strong convictions.

Jerry Reynolds
Scott, from San Angelo
Dear Jerry,
Just found your 40 stories from a car dealer, sorry to have been away from your show for these years. We harken back to the old Dallas Digest days, and miss the back and forth with you and Kevin.
#39 definitely brings back good and bad memories of you and BJ. He was a great young man and was a joy to get to know online. I know you miss him greatly.

I look forward to reading the other 38, thanks for sharing these stories.

Thanks again for the advice you gave me when I called in a couple of weeks ago.
The Car Pro
Thanks Scott, glad you found the True Stories series, i put a lot of work into those. I appreciate your kind words greatly! Always let me know how I can help you!

Jerry Reynolds
Dear Jerry

Just read your story "Regrets". First and foremost, my condolences on the untimely loss of B.J.. I get it... we lost our daughter 5 1/2 years ago due to a totally unnecessary and avoidable car accident in Bozeman Mt.. The intersection was simply defective...multiple accidents and several fatalities in the previous 14 years until our daughters death. We sued the state for wrongful death and demanded changes to the intersection. After a almost 4 year fight the state caved and settled. Meantime they started making changes to that intersection almost immediately after our daughter's death. With the settlement funds we have scholarships in Montana and Cleveland. Kari was also like B.J..she lived life to the fullest, was a good skier and fly fisherperson, and worked hard and played hard. And she had an army of wonderful loving friends. We miss her immensely. There has not been a fatality and at best only very minor accidents if any at that intersection since her fatality. Most importantly, this like a sack of rocks on our backs...they never get lighter, but we get stronger.

I have regrets also. I regret being too tired to talk to her at 12:30 at night when she called to say hi to Mom and me. She died a few days later. As President and COO of a medi al.device business I regret not being completely consistent with certain management decisions; this is the worst thing you can do as a manager. I had employees who stayed with me over 22 years... so I was a good manager...just could have been a little better.

Reading your story we had other some what similar parallels. Kari wrote about storms and lightening and getting through them and seeing a rainbow each time as a problem is solved. We played a very popular rendition of "Over the Rainbow" at her funeral. So much more to say...but may we each see beautiful.memories and smile, albeit through a tear at every rainbow we see. Be well.

The Car Pro
Mark, thank you for sharing your story of Kari. She sounds extraordinary and I can tell the world isn't quite as good without her.

I've counseled a number of parents who have lost children over the past six years. As I tell them, and I'll tell you, we are all part of an exclusive club that nobody wants to be a member of.

Gain, thank you for sharing your great memories of Kari, and for forcing change to that intersection. I am sure that makes Kari extremely proud.

Let me know if I can assist you in any way!

Jerry Reynolds
Dear Jerry,

I am so sorry about the loss of your son. Your words paint the picture of a guy who made this life better for everyone. Thank you for sharing with us.

The Car Pro
Thank you Julie, that is very kind. He had an infectious smile and I was proud he always told the truth.

Thank you for your kind words.

Jerry Reynolds,
Fred S.
Jerry, I'm sorry about B.J's early death, yet thankful for his life and yours. As a simple pastor that I am, and hospital chaplain the best words I have come up with are "Where would we be without Jesus," and as I told a family this morning at the hospital bedside of their deceased love one, "I'm sure glad God has shown us the future." Thank You Lord, Thank you Jerry.
The Car Pro
Thank you Fred for the kind and comforting words, and for what you do. I appreciate you listening to the show very much!

Jerry Reynolds, President
Car Pro Radio Network
Frank .
Jerry, I was also stunned after reading about the abusive husband. What are the signs? You mentioned that some signs were there.
The Car Pro
Frank, here is a good article on the signs. I hope this helps and thanks for caring:

Jerry Reynolds, President
Car Pro Radio Network
Peggy .
It?s taken me a week to be able to tell you how much this story affected me. My daughter was born the same year your son was born and I truly can?t imagine losing her! You poor thing! I?m so sorry for your loss. I can see that you are comforted by your warm memories of your sweet son!
The Car Pro
Thanks for the kind words Peggy. Yes, many good memories for sure, and yet sadness on a daily basis that will not go away. Thanks for following the series, and for listening to the show.

Jerry Reynolds, President
Car Pro Radio Network
Barbara B.
I?m so glad that I have had the privilege of knowing you. I?ve known your big heart and helpful spirit for years while serving on NBC Board with Kelly and seeing you dig deep to help so many involved in family violence. And then later saw your concern and giving spirit to help Hope Clinic meet medical needs of the uninsured and underserved. Just pleased to be called your friend! Thanks for all the good family-friendly articles you put on the internet. Keep on keeping on!
The Car Pro
THANKS Barbara! You?ve been a true leader and tireless worker for those who truly needed help. You inspire a lot of us!

Jerry Reynolds, President
Car Pro Radio Network
Bob B.
Mr. Reynolds, thank you for sharing your many professional and personal stories. It takes a very special person to chronicle not only the highest moments in their lives, but also the lowest. Your latest offering gave us all a lot to reflect on. As a new member of your faithful audience, I now know why you're so popular and revered.
(I too have been in commission sales and management most of my life. It's been a blast, a grind, sometimes stressful, yet most times rewarding. I love the game)

NOTE: I've heard you and Kevin often discuss the 'expectation' of hearing the loud sounds a brand new high-performance car's engine. Please take this from someone who lives and enjoys daily work-outs along or very close to heavily traveled PCH in Dana Point and Laguna Beach, CA; the obscene noise emitted daily by the constant array of new high-powered domestics, imports and exotics, EVEN WHILE DRIVING THE SPEED LIMIT, is uncaring, obnoxious and unnecessary!! (BTW... I too love the thrill of speed. I ride a 124hp H-D VRod with QUIET STOCK PIPES!) Thank you, I feel much better now. -Bob Baker, Dana Point, CA
The Car Pro
Bob, thank you for your kind words! I appreciate you listening to the show greatly! Since you?ve worked straight commission, you can better relate to much of what I wrote.

Can?t blame you on the noise?it going to get worse too. Many automakers have learned that exhaust sound sells cars. Many of them pipe the sound in the car through the stereo speakers. Never thought I?d see that day.

Great hearing from you my friend!

Jerry Reynolds, President
Car Pro Radio Network
Jim .
Jerry, we all have regrets. There's one I don't regret. As you know, I went to work when I was trying to get sober, but hadn't yet. As you also know, I had a rough time for a while, until I finally got sober. This coming summer, God willing, I will have 25 years of continuous sobriety. The car business was about as far away from my training and education as one could stray. Working for you allowed me the time to get sober, and it was a hell of a ride. Working for you provided me a safe space, lol, allowed me to recapture some dignity, was a fun ride, and I made a lot of lifelong friends. That was one thing I will never regret. Love you and Thanks.

P.S. I got to meet BJ when he was a kid, and he was like his Dad-a hell of a guy even as a kid!

The Car Pro
Jim, you were a joy as an employee. We were a better dealership because you were there. Always good to hear from you my friend, I hope all is well in your world.

Jerry Reynolds, President
Car Pro Radio Network
Arlene P.
Oh, Jerry...I?m sitting here listening to you on WOAI and reading this newsletter doing a very big ugly cry. You have been far more of a blessing to so many than you will ever know! Since we cannot undo the past and tomorrow is not promised, we serve at the Lord?s pleasure today. ??????
The Car Pro
Thank you Arlene, that is so kind. I appreciate you listening to the show and your kind words. Always let me know if I can do anything for you! God bless!

Jerry Reynolds, President
Car Pro Radio Network
Paul B.
This one was a kick in the gut. It was tough to consume.
I think you could write a book called Chicken Soup for the Car Dealer.
The Car Pro
Tough one to write my friend. Thank you for sharing this journey with me and for listening to the show.

Jerry Reynolds, President
Car Pro Radio Network
David L.
Jerry, first, as I'm sure many of us were unaware, let me extend heart-felt condolences for the loss of your son.

Second, that grand estate described as Champ d'Or north of Dallas reminds me of an updated version of the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC. That place would make a great boutique hotel if it doesn't sell as a private residence.

Third, thanks for sharing so much of your career with all of us. Fascinating and impressive to say the very least. May God continue to bless your family.
The Car Pro
David, thanks for the kind words, they are much appreciated!

Jerry Reynolds, President
Car Pro Radio Network
Jason K.
Touching story, Jerry. Thanks for the courage of sharing it. Sort of puts mundane problems in perspective. I sure hope Carol recovered from her scars - all of them.
Mary M.
Another great article. Thank you, Jerry. And your son B.J. was definitely a chip off the old block. I can only imagine how much you miss him.
The Car Pro
Thank you Mary. He was an awesome child. I appreciate the kind words.

Jerry Reynolds, President
Car Pro Radio Network
Sorry to hear you're winding down the True Stories series. It's the highlight of my Friday afternoons.
The Car Pro
Thank you, it?s just hard to keep coming up with compelling stories. If I recall great stories, I will add to the series for sure. Thanks for the kind words.

Jerry Reynolds, President
Car Pro Radio Network
Doug J.
Hi Jerry:
You have certainly endured a whole lot of sadness and anguish in your life. No words can describe the heartache of losing your child, a lost legacy.
Then the horrifying situation with your former employee. And yet you still have been able to remain an optimist in our human condition.
You can sleep well knowing that while many things are beyond your control, your caring generosity for issues that you can and do affect celebrate your fallen and aggrieved family and friends.

Be well
Doug J.
The Car Pro
Doug, thanks so much for the kind words. I appreciate them greatly.

Jerry Reynolds, President
Car Pro Radio Network
Wayne K.
Wow! Tears in my eyes! Your best story yet!!
It's wonderful how open and honest you are!
The Car Pro
Thank you Wayne. I appreciate your kind words greatly.

Jerry Reynolds, President
Car Pro Radio Network