Oldest Limo Salesman Almost Lives To 100

Posted on January 6, 2016 by - Also by this author - About the author

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Updated 3:45 p.m. PT, 1/6]

[NOTE TO READERS: This article will be updated as LCT gathers more information and commemorative comments. Readers are welcome to leave comments below this article].

CARSON, Calif. — Bob Froeschle, a beloved, avuncular, and humorous Southern California vehicle salesman for more than six decades, died Jan. 1, 2016 in a local hospital.

By the calendar, he was 99, but only 11 days shy of his 100th birthday. Froeschle was born Jan. 11, 1916, about five years after the first mass-produced consumer cars hit U.S. roads. A resident of Carson, he died of natural causes after a brief hospital stay.

A celebration of life in honor of Bob Froeschle will be held Saturday, Jan. 9 from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. at Coach West, 1029 E. Dominguez St., Carson, Calif., 90746, (310) 609-2900.

Froeschle worked at multiple auto dealerships in Southern California since he started in 1939 at a Cadillac dealership in Santa Ana. But he was best known in the limousine industry as a salesman for Coach West in Carson, about 15 miles south of Los Angeles, where he was hired in 1989 at age 73. He had started selling stretch limousines in 1980 for another distributor, and eventually sold all types of limos, buses, funeral vehicles and chauffeured cars to clients along the West Coast.

“He had to teach a lot of people how to drive when he first started selling cars,” said Jay Real, owner and CEO of Coach West, who hired Froeschle. “Driving was still new to a lot of people back then.”

Froeschle embodied stamina, longevity, consistency and sheer joy of living. He regularly delivered vehicles to clients up to age 94, drove his own car until age 98, and worked steadily selling vehicles until the summer of 2015. “He and I had a joke that he had a contract here until he turned 100,” Real told LCT. “He was just an icon. He was usually the first one in the office, and the last one to leave.”

Froeschle’s sales approach was defined by a sense of humor and loyalty to the customer, Real said. “He was a fatherly figure to a lot of people. He was in his 70s when he joined us, and touched a lot of people.”

One longtime client who entered the limousine business in 1991 with very little experience recalled Bob’s generosity. Baurice Nelson started a limousine service in Olympia, Wash., in 1991 and needed a stretch. In 1992, Nelson bought a one-way airline ticket to Los Angeles and carried a newspaper where he had circled an advertisement mentioning Bob and Coach West. “I didn’t know what I was doing,” said Nelson, owner of Capital West Limousines. “I didn’t have a car, so Bob loaned me this little pick-up truck that you could use to take stuff to the dump. He let me use it for a few days to go to all the places with limos for sale. But I ended up buying two limos from Bob, and almost every limo since I’ve gotten from him. I’d hook up with Bob anytime I went down there."

Bob Froeschle appeared on the December 1999 cover of LCT Magazine for an annual photo gallery previewing the 2000 MY chauffeured vehicles. 
Bob Froeschle appeared on the December 1999 cover of LCT Magazine for an annual photo gallery previewing the 2000 MY chauffeured vehicles. 

Froeschle even officiated at Nelson’s wedding along Venice Beach in 2012. “I loved that guy a lot and he was a giant part of my life, even if it was only a few days at a time," Nelson recalled. "I enjoyed many years hanging out with him and always tried to include him in at least a lunch when I was going through California. I am really happy he was able to perform my wedding ceremony. While I was concerned he would forget some lines, he was beyond on top of it. He did keep eating all the booze-filled fruit until he went to sleep, and then he couldn't feel his hand for a while. I was concerned I may have killed him at that point.”

Bob often would drive the limousines Nelson purchased to Olympia. “He’d drive up here smoking his pipe and deliver the limo. He’d spend the night, cook us dinner and hang out a few days.”

Other Career

Froeschle also enjoyed a side career as a musician, starting with a violin in high school but then playing bass for the rest of his life, according to an article in the Autumn 2011 issue of The Score magazine. He took up bass after one fateful night during a high school play when the scenery collapsed into the orchestra pit and crushed his violin. Bass was the only instrument available, so he took it up and played it from then on.

Froeschle first journeyed to California in 1934 to live with his sister, a schoolteacher. While traveling by bus through Wilcox, Arizona, a monsoon rain flooded the road and swept the bus away in a flash food. Although other passengers died in the accident, Bob held on and was rescued. After arriving in Orange County, he joined a jazz band. Through the rest of the 1930s and far beyond, he played in jazz bands at dance clubs and restaurants, the article reported.

Froeschle joined the Orange County Musicians’ Association, also known as Local 7 of the American Federation of Musicians, in 1936 and became a lifetime member in 1956. He was part of the first union team that negotiated a musicians’ contract with Disneyland in 1955, and his band regularly played at the Balboa Bay Club when it was just a cement slab covered by a tent. The union local recognized him in 2011 with a special award for 75 years of service and membership, according to the magazine.

The article said of Bob, "Regular attendees of Local 7 meetings are drawn to him, not only by his elegant presence, but also his outgoing manner and willingness to share a joke (not always respectable in mixed company) with his fellow members."


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