BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Gerry Lane, owner of seven Baton Rouge car dealerships, died early Friday morning after a long battle with cancer. He was 82 years old.
Friends and family said he died around 5 a.m. surrounded by loved ones.
His children said the dealerships will continue to be run with the same principles he instilled in them.
"Customer service, innovation, and being deeply involved in the community - this is dad's legacy, and we are going to keep running the dealerships just the way we have been doing, like he taught us to do," said his son, Eric Lane.
"When Dad first gave me the chance to handle his advertising it was still unusual for women to be in leadership roles in business," said his daughter, Saundra Lane. "He held me to such a high standard, sometimes it was really hard, but I sure learned a lot from him."
Lane started a career in auto sales in California in 1953 and quickly worked his way up to owning several dealerships along the Gulf Coast. Last year, writer Leo Honeycutt chronicled Lane's journey to becoming one of the automotive world's most successful men.
"He wanted to leave a legacy behind...what he called a road map as to what other people could do if they just took the time to learn the lessons it took him 60 years to learn," said Honeycutt, author of "Gerry Lane: An American Success Story".
Honeycutt says while teaching others to become thriving business owners was one of lessons Lane wanted to pass along, showing the importance of giving back to the community was even more important. Honeycutt says Lane and his family have donated nearly $30 million to local organizations and charities over the years.
"He just believed in doing that because he started from being poor, and he knew that was a struggle and he knew he had to help someone break out just like he did," said Honeycutt.
YMCA of the Capital Area is one of the many community groups that Lane that cherished. President and CEO Bob Jacobs says Lane helped revive their youth sports league.
"It started off with a very small youth sports program. Today it has over 18,000 kids in it. And so no matter how big the task was, if he truly believed in it he got behind it and he supported it," said Jacobs.
Jacobs says there will be a big void in the city with his friend and teacher no longer here.
"He was a fighter, he was a champion of a lot of great causes and, again, he's going to be missed dearly," said Jacobs.
Lane is survived by his wife, Faye, two sons and a daughter.
A public visitation will be at Greenoaks Funeral Home on Florida Boulevard in Baton Rouge Monday from noon until 5 p.m. It will be followed by a private burial.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the YMCA Youth Sports Programs.
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