By Jim Luff, LCT Contributing Editor
[Last updated Monday, Nov. 22, 3 p.m. EST with statements from Ed Salekeeny and Joe Jordan]
Dean Schuler -- veteran limousine operator, industry leader, educator, trade magazine writer, online commenter as well as overall friend, mentor, and supporter of the chauffeured transportation industry -- died Friday night of a sudden heart attack at his home in New Orleans. He was 57.
Schuler, owner of Signature Livery/Carey New Orleans, was a legend in the limousine industry, a member of the generation that helped propel and lead the industry as it grew into a more organized market niche during the 1980s and 1990s. Over the course of his three-decade-plus industry career, Schuler was a steady presence at industry trade shows and events and association meetings. He had attended the Limousine Digest Show in Atlantic City, N.J., earlier this month. Schuler once wrote for LCT in its early years, and most recently was a regular contributor and columnist for Limousine Digest.
Ed Salakeeny, a partner in Signature/Livery Carey New Orleans, released the following statement Monday morning on behalf of the staff: "Carey New Orleans has experienced a great loss of both a founding partner and a dear friend. Dean was a mentor not only to his staff but to other operators who also looked to him for guidance. We recognize the entire limousine industry shares in this dramatic loss,
but Dean's legacy will live on through his contributions made here at Carey New Orleans as well as throughout the transportation industry."
Schuler reaffirmed his legendary status in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans and he managed to operate his vehicles and business despite all of the obstacles and challenges associated with the disaster.
He also was well known for his prolific comments and posts on the LimousineOnline discussion forum, where operators nationwide discuss industry issues and share advice and insights on running their businesses.
Schuler died Friday at 6:30 p.m. of a heart attack in an ambulance in front of his home in New Orleans. He had complained to his office staff earlier of feeling ill and of headaches, so they called 911. After paramedics arrived, Schuler felt better, but then developed numbness in one of his legs, according to his brother, Jim Schuler. Just after paramedics put Schuler into the ambulance, he suffered the fatal heart attack. His brother said Schuler had been battling high blood pressure in recent years.
Schuler normally retired to his home around 6 p.m. each evening so he could begin his "early morning shift," as he liked to call it, which could start some days at 2 a.m.
"Dean was a person who truly loved EVERYTHING about our industry," said Tom Mazza, a longtime industry consultant, chauffeur trainer, and broker. "He loved the history, the people, and he took tremendous pride in serving his clients every day," Mazza said in a statement Saturday. "He was a strong 'company man' and always spoke positively of Carey International. He was extremely supportive of my work and never failed to reach out to me after a trade show. His kindness and gentle spirit will be missed."
LCT Publisher Sara Eastwood-McLean, who has been working for LCT Magazine since 1991, said Saturday she was “shocked and saddened by this sudden loss of a man that contributed so much to the limousine industry.”
Joe Jordan, the president of the Limousine Association of Houston, shared comments with the industry on Saturday: "I have known Dean for many years and he was a true pioneer and trailblazer in this industry. He was a very kind and generous man and always ready to lend a helping hand or share his knowledge with anyone who asked. He had a regular monthly article in Limo Digest and the information was always timely and relevant.
"Whenever I had questions about who was who in the industry or how things came to be over the years, he always had the answer. I always looked forward to seeing him at the shows so I could get his read on things that were happening. I had lunch with him at the Limo Digest Show in Atlantic City a week and a half ago and he seemed fine. Our time in this life is known only to the man above.
"Whenever our Limousine Association here in Houston had a really interesting meeting or speaker, Dean would come over for it. He last came here for the dinner yacht cruise we arranged for the NLA Board meeting here in Houston last August."
FROM JIM LUFF:
“His trips to my home town meant the world to me. His brother Jim would make the trips to Bakersfield and they were very close.
“When my wife and I went to New Orleans, Dean was a fabulous host to us. He was always a phone call away and called often to check up on me or to rebuke me something I had posted on the Internet or said tom someone. He frequently called upon me to ask about how I handled certain things which was an honor from a man I called upon for eleven years to ask how I should do something.
“Schuler has been a fixture in the limousine industry since  operating Signature Livery in New Orleans, a Carey franchise. He was present at nearly every industry show across America. He attended many state and regional association meetings in his quest to learn, stay current and contribute his knowledge. He was always eager to lend a hand to anyone that asked and to give you his opinions whether you asked or not.
“Dean survived incredible odds as Hurricane Katrina bore down on his community. He rounded up his staff and evacuated them and his fleet to avoid being wiped out. He set up a temporary office in hotel rooms in Houston carrying his computer server with him as well as a handful of laptops and remained in business through the storm and after the storm even landing a government contract for transportation of evacuees.”
Dean Schuler was born on Sept. 30, 1953 in Portland, Oregon. He entered the limousine business somewhat by chance in 1978 when he went to New Orleans to visit a friend and took a job driving a limousine. It was an odd choice of jobs for a man who had obtained a Master’s degree in psychology from Sonoma State University in California only one year earlier, and had graduated with a Bachelor's degree from Missouri State University in 1975. Although psychology was his chosen career path, he decided he did not like working in an institutional environment, Jim Schuler said. Schuler would leave the industry briefly and move to California before returning to New Orleans to make it his permanent home and the limousine industry his lifelong career.
In accordance with Schuler's wishes, there will be no funeral service. The family is planning a Celebration of Life commemoration and party some time in early December in New Orleans for colleagues and friends to speak about Schuler and share their memories. [LCT will publish details when the event is arranged].
Schuler is survived by his father, Bill Schuler, and his brother Jim and wife Denice.
The Schuler family asks that no flowers be sent until the day of the Celebration of Life party. The family also is working to find a charitable organization that provides services and support for high blood pressure diseases which can accept memorial donations in honor of Dean Schuler.
-- LCT editor Martin Romjue contributed to this article.