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Jim Yark, who bought the Oldsmobile dealership he’d worked for since college and built it into the area’s largest auto group, where customers could choose among Jeeps, BMWs, Chevys, Fiats, and more, died Wednesday in Hospice of Northwest Ohio, Perrysburg Township. He was 62.
He had Alzheimer’s disease since 2007, a condition that was diagnosed in 2009, said his brother, John, president of the Yark Automotive Group.
Mr. Yark — formally, Donald James Yark, Jr. — had been president of the group, which includes BMW, Nissan, Subaru, Chevrolet, Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge, Ram, and Fiat franchises and is based on the “Central Avenue Strip” of auto dealerships in Sylvania Township.
“I always call him the rock star of the automobile business in Toledo,” said Marianne Ballas, president of Ballas Buick-GMC. “We were competitors, but I respected him so much and what he was able to accomplish in such a short period of time.”
Robb Brown, president of Brown Automotive Group, said that Mr. Yark revived coordinated advertising among Central Avenue dealers that touted the strip.
“The industry’s lost a guy who was very successful, basically built his business from scratch, from being able to spot the manufacturers that were going to be hot products, coupled with a bit of luck,” Mr. Brown said. “He was a very astute business guy and a very good car guy.”
Mr. Yark dealt with others fairly and willingly took leadership roles in the auto community, said Dave White, Jr., president of the White Family of auto dealerships. In social settings, he was generous with praise.
“He was quick to remember people and recognize people,” Mr. White said.
In 2006, Mr. Yark received the Time Magazine Quality Dealer Award for the area, sponsored by Time and the National Automobile Dealers Association.
Mr. Yark went to work in the accounting department of Ted Papenhagen Oldsmobile in 1973 after he graduated from the Ohio State University. He knew cars from the inside out. He and his father, a mechanical engineer, liked to buy cars, fix them up, and sell them.
“He really loved cars and loved them his entire life,” his brother said. “Every neat car that would come out until the end, he was interested in ordering and driving it as well.”
Mr. Yark worked his way through the ranks — eventually vice president of administration and then general manager. He bought the dealership in 1981 and two years later changed the name to Jim Yark Oldsmobile. The economy, with money tight and interest rates high, was an early challenge.
“It was one of the worst depressions or recessions the car industry had seen in the last century,” his brother said. “My brother has always been a guy who really liked to be in control of his destiny. He definitely was just in love with the thought of being a car dealer.”
Mr. Yark was a former board member of the Toledo Regional Chamber of Commerce. He was a member of the Toledo Club, and Yark Automotive has supported such institutions as the Toledo Symphony, the Toledo Opera, the Toledo Museum of Art, and the Toledo Zoo, his brother said.
Born Dec. 9, 1950, to Marilyn and Donald J. Yark, he grew up in the Old Orchard neighborhood of West Toledo. He was a 1968 graduate of DeVilbiss High School and a veteran of the 180th Fighter Wing of the Air National Guard based at Toledo Express Airport.
He was formerly married to Susan Poll.
Surviving are his wife, Mary Yark; sons, Donald J. “DJ” III, Dannie, William, Jack; daughters Jamie and Emily Yark; father, Donald J. Yark; brother, John W. Yark, and sister, Lynn Baker.
Visitation will be 11-8 p.m. Sunday in the Walker Funeral Home, Sylvania Township. Services will be private. The family suggests tributes to Hospice of Northwest Ohio or the Alzheimer’s Association.
Contact Mark Zaborney Media 419-724-6182.
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