BRIDGMAN — Edward Siemans, remembered best for the well-known car dealership franchise in Southwest Michigan, died Friday, April 24, at the age of 88.
Siemans leaves behind three sons – Jack, Craig and Eric – who remain active in the dealership business.
According to Eric Siemans, his father began Friday like he always does – by working.
“He was not the typical, flashy car dealer guy,” Eric said on April 27. “He was more of a family man. He always concentrated on his customers and employees. He’s touched a lot of lives.”
Siemans’s affiliation with the region began in 1975 when he and his wife, Joan, moved to Bridgman after buying the Dave Bauschke Ford dealership, at the time located next to the railroad tracks in downtown Bridgman.
They would go on to fall in love with what Southwest Michigan had to offer.
Together, they founded Siemans Ford, starting out with eight employees.
In 1979, the Siemans bought land across from the Navajo Restaurant on Red Arrow Highway on the north side of Bridgman and erected a new building.
Three years after the expansion, they started Siemans Mazda on Niles Avenue in St. Joseph. In 1983, they added Chrysler, Plymouth and Dodge. Over the years, they also added the Pontiac, Daewoo, Isuzu and Eagle brands.
Siemans was lauded for his interactions with customers and staff.
This was also the case when it came to working with his sons, who took after his profession after watching him open the various dealerships.
“Very few kids get to work with their dad. How many people get to say they can do that?” Eric said. “For me (becoming a salesman) it’s been a process since I was in grade school. You witness how he talks to people and you learn from that. This is a small town and you have to take care of people otherwise you won’t be in business.”
Siemans’s daily routine often meant interacting with customers in the waiting room.
Eric said his father used his dry sense of humor to form great relationships with his customers. The Siemans patriarch often celebrated his staff’s accomplishments, making it a point to walk through his service department every day. For those who never met Siemans, his sense of humor was on display in many of his radio commercials. He would find something amusing to talk about and always ended with “thanks for listening – bye.”
“He’ll be remembered for his sense of humor, his treatment of people, his family and his faith,” Eric said.
Siemans was recognized within the industry, as well.
He received the Time Magazine Quality Dealer Award in 2006. He was also given the Northwood University Automotive Dealer Education Award in 2016.
At the time of his passing, Siemans was serving as a regional director for the Michigan Auto Dealers Association.
Eric said among the notable accomplishments and awards his father cherished is immortalized on a certificate and score card that Siemans had framed for his office.
About two decades ago, Siemans hit a hole-in-one at the Nairn Golf Club in Scotland.
“He loved to golf,” Eric said. “He got a hole-in-one on one of the most prestigious courses in the world. It was a Par 3 and the green was in a blind shot. He knew where the pin was. Everyone on the patio erupted and he was wondering what they were cheering about.”