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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.
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.
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.”
BOB FROESCHLE PHOTO GALLERY HERE