Arthur Schaefer, a self-taught businessman, generous philanthropist and friend to pro athletes, died early Friday morning of heart failure at St. Mary's Medical Center. He was 98.
Schaefer was active right up to the end; only last week he was still coming in to the office of ARB Enterprises, said his son, Rick Schaefer.
Arthur, who made his fortune selling cars, never even reached high school, Rick said. Instead, he quit to go to work to help support the family.
Schaefer was born in 1908 in Racine. His first used-car business was Downtown on Fourth Street where Waves restaurant now sits. Later, Rick said, his father moved across Lake Avenue to the current Racine Festival Park site at the corner of Lake and the causeway. That later became Green Bay Packer great Don Hutson's auto dealership as Schaefer's business grew and he moved it elsewhere.
But he set his car business completely aside when World War II came along. Arthur locked the doors of the business, he his brother Ben both enlisted in the U.S. Army, and they went off to join the war effort.
After the war, Arthur - who had gone from used cars to selling new Plymouths - added other car lines including Pontiac, the first such dealership in Racine. He stayed in the auto business with Schaefer Pontiac until about 15 years ago, then sold it to his other son, Ronald. About six years ago the business finally left the family when it was sold to Palmen Motors.
Arthur "was definitely a one-of-a-kind guy," Rick said. "There was no more honorable guy than he was."
Rick said Arthur never argued with a customer. Instead, he would simply satisfy the customer's request or cure the complaint.
Arthur had the manners of a perfect gentleman combined with a winning personality and terrific sense of humor, said Lisa Blacher, Arthur's great-niece and Rick's cousin. She said Arthur was
"famous" for his smile.
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"And any woman who saw him and got that smile would just melt."
He also had a terrific sense of humor that just wouldn't quit. Toward the end, Blacher said, "He had us laughing to the end."
Rick said his father, an avid golfer, sponsored a pro golfer from Wisconsin. That led to friendships with all of the great golfers of his day including Sam Snead and Ben Hogan - which whom Arthur went into the golf club
"He knew everyone in golf," Rick said.
Arthur's friendships with top-flight professional athletes also extended into baseball. Rick said his father began accompanying scouts for the former Los Angeles Angels to games.
"They enjoyed his company so much that they would ask him to come along," said Rick, who also insisted that his father even began doing scouting himself.
As a philanthropist, Arthur was unfailingly generous and instilled in the entire family a belief in giving. "He always told us to give to your community," Rick said.
Probably Arthur's most-cherished cause was the Founding Family Charitable
Foundation, which honored Schaefer in 2006 as its Patron of the Year. The foundation's mission is to extend the "American Dream" to American families and international children in need. Its activities include helping to fund adoptions and building schools around the world.
Funeral services will be held at Maresh-Meredith & Acklam Funeral Home, 803 Main St., at noon Sunday. Interment will follow at Jewish Memorial Cemetery.
Relatives and friends may meet with the family at the funeral home from 11 a.m. Sunday until the