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Published: Friday, 10/23/2009

Auto dealer was leader in industry

Vincent "Vin" Devers, whose name has been synonymous with automobile dealerships in the Toledo area for more than five decades, died Wednesday in the Franciscan Care Center in Sylvania. He was 89.

Family members said he died of complications from Alzheimer's disease.

"He was a kind, caring person," said his son, Paul Devers, now the president of Vin Devers Autohaus on Monroe Street, where he works with his brother, Tom, the company's vice president.

Paul Devers described his late father as a "very worldly, very knowledgeable man" who loved his family and his employees.

Born in 1920, Vin Devers lived many of his formative years as a youth during the Depression and served overseas on a destroyer escort with the Navy during World War II.

"He always taught our people to run the place like it was your own and to be thrifty," Paul Devers said.

His said his father was a Cleveland-area native who became one of the Toledo-area's biggest boosters. He was drawn to Lake Erie's beautiful waves and sunsets.

"He loved boating, probably from his Navy days," Paul said. "He always liked the peacefulness of being out on the water. He thought it was a great way for the family to stay close together."

He said his father occasionally remarked about how important water is to industry. He predicted that Toledo and other Great Lakes cities would recover as businesses came back to the region for its abundance of fresh water.

Vin Devers worked at the former Willys Overland Plant as a tool-and-die maker. He also was a union steward.

He enlisted in the Navy during World War II and, after returning to Toledo, began working at the Spicer division of what is now Dana Holding Corp.

In 1953, Mr. Devers married his wife, the former Marilyn Joan Dempsey, a local woman who had occasionally done fashion modeling for national magazines. She eventually became afflicted by multiple sclerosis, and preceded him in death in 2006.

Mr. Devers developed a passion for automobiles during his youth, when he put his machining background to work by modifying cars and racing them.

"Like every other man, he enjoyed convertibles," Paul Devers said.

Vin Devers started his sales career at Bob Reece Ford in downtown Toledo. He soon advanced to sales manager and, then, was promoted to general manager.

He purchased his first dealership in 1956 on North Main Street in Sylvania, calling it Vin Devers Mercury.

In 1968, he built a more modern dealership on Monroe Street, where he sold the Lincoln-Mercury line of automobiles, as well as Triumph and Mercedes-Benz.

He purchased the former Glass City Dodge on Alexis and Telegraph roads after former Ford Motor Co. executive Lee Iacocca, a friend of his, switched over to Chrysler in 1977.

Mr. Devers relocated his dealership to its current location in the 5500 block of Monroe Street in 1981, adding Audi and Porsche to the sales fleet.

He was president of the Toledo Automobile Association three times. He was a trustee of the Ohio Auto Dealers Association from 1977-1982. He also was once the national chairman of the Lincoln-Mercury Dealer Council, and was a past president of the Sales Executive Club of Toledo.

Survivors include his sons, Paul and Tom Devers; seven grandchildren; a great-grandson, and a sister, Lucille Cordray.

Visitation will be from 4 to 9 p.m. Sunday at the Reeb Funeral Home, 5712 North Main St., Sylvania. Toledo Fort Industry Lodge No. 144 will have a memorial service there at 7 p.m.

The funeral will be there at 11 a.m. Monday at Reeb Funeral Home.

The family requests that any memorials be made to the Alzheimer's Association (www.alz.org) or the Multiple Sclerosis Society (www.nationalmssociety.org).

Friends are encouraged to share a memory or offer condolences at www.reebfuneralhome.com.



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