True Stories From A Former Car Dealer #39: Regrets

I’ve 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, wasn’t 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.

BJ Reynolds

Jerry’s son, Jerry “B.J.” 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, I’ll say it clear, I’ll state my case, of which I’m certain.

I’ve lived a life that’s full, I’ve traveled each and every highway
And more, much more than this, I did it my way.

Regrets, I’ve 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, I’m 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.

I’ve loved, I’ve laughed and cried, I’ve 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: 

https://www.restlandfuneralhome.com/obits/jerry-b-j-reynolds-ii/

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:  “Do I have regrets?”  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.  It’s 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 wasn’t 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 wasn’t, 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 hadn’t seen him in a couple of years, so wasn’t 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:  “Someday, everyone in America will have a phone they carry that doesn’t have a cord.”  I thought for sure he’d 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 D’ Or, a 48,000 square foot, 57-room mansion that cost 52 million dollars to build.  You can see it here:

https://www.nbcmiami.com/entertainment/the-scene/Inside-Champ-dOr-North-Texas-Mega-Mansion-432897213.html

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 children’s 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.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 Joe’s 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:  “Why didn’t you tell me?”

I was stunned and didn’t know what to say, except:  “Tell you what?”

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 wouldn’t 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 I’ll take to the grave.

Photo Credit: alexmillos/Shutterstock

 

27 Comments
  1. Wayne K. Maslyk Jr. 3 weeks ago

    Wow! Tears in my eyes! Your best story yet!!
    It’s wonderful how open and honest you are!
    Wayne.

    • Car Pro 3 weeks ago

      Thank you Wayne. I appreciate your kind words greatly.

      Jerry Reynolds, President
      Car Pro Radio Network

  2. Doug Johnson 3 weeks ago

    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.

    • Car Pro 3 weeks ago

      Doug, thanks so much for the kind words. I appreciate them greatly.

      Jerry Reynolds, President
      Car Pro Radio Network

  3. RAH 3 weeks ago

    Sorry to hear you’re winding down the True Stories series. It’s the highlight of my Friday afternoons.

    • Car Pro 3 weeks ago

      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

  4. Mary Matthews 3 weeks ago

    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.

    • Car Pro 3 weeks ago

      Thank you Mary. He was an awesome child. I appreciate the kind words.

      Jerry Reynolds, President
      Car Pro Radio Network

  5. Jason K. 3 weeks ago

    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.

  6. David L Wolf 3 weeks ago

    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.

    • Car Pro 3 weeks ago

      David, thanks for the kind words, they are much appreciated!

      Jerry Reynolds, President
      Car Pro Radio Network

  7. Paul Brady 3 weeks ago

    Jerry
    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.
    Paul

    • Car Pro 3 weeks ago

      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

  8. Arlene Post 3 weeks ago

    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. ❤️❤️❤️

    • Car Pro 3 weeks ago

      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

  9. Jim 3 weeks ago

    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!

    JRC

    • Car Pro 3 weeks ago

      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

  10. Bob Baker 3 weeks ago

    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

    • Car Pro 3 weeks ago

      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

  11. Barbara Burton 3 weeks ago

    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!

    • Car Pro 3 weeks ago

      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

  12. Peggy 3 weeks ago

    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!

    • Car Pro 3 weeks ago

      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

  13. Frank 3 weeks ago

    Jerry, I was also stunned after reading about the abusive husband. What are the signs? You mentioned that some signs were there.

  14. Fred Self 1 week ago

    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.

    • Car Pro 1 week ago

      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

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