Donald E. Jacobs
Feb. 4 1927 - Feb. 28, 2014
He was determined, goal-oriented, fair, down-to-earth and honest with people’

By Sarah Pryor - Freeman Staff

March 12, 2014

Don Jacobs and Romain Schaub pose in front of the Waukesha Buick-Opel dealership in 1969. 
Submitted photo

WAUKESHA - When Don Jacobs finished his time in the Merchant Marines, the first job he applied for was at a tire company, but he was turned down because the manager didn’t feel he had the right personality for sales.

Of course, virtually anyone of a certain age in the metro Milwaukee area knows that Jacobs went on to run multiple successful Buick dealerships all over the region until the early 2000s, and his Milwaukee Toyota dealership still exists today.

Jacobs, who passed away at the Masonic Center for Health & Rehab in Dousman at the age of 87 on Feb. 28, is remembered by friends and family as a tenacious, straight-forward yet friendly guy.

Don and Jeanne Jacobs in Boynton Beach, Florida in 2002. 
Submitted photo

“The big thing with my dad is that he was a people person,” said Jacobs’ son Dave Jacobs. “He was always aggressive and determined to improve his situation.”

After he didn’t get that tire job, Don Jacobs ended up working at a filling station in Madison, where he convinced the owner to let him sell Christmas trees on the corner of the lot. The owner of Kayser Ford frequented the station and was impressed with Jacobs’ tenacity, so he offered him a job, Dave Jacobs said.

“I know he worked in the different departments - tires, service, etc. - and eventually got into sales and then got into management and worked his way up to general manager,” Dave Jacobs said. ”Then when he was 42, he bought a tiny Buick-Opel dealership in downtown Waukesha.

“He took a big chance. He was the general manager at Kayser Ford for many years and did very well for himself, but he sold everything and hocked everything he could in order to buy that dealership.

“I’m not sure I would’ve had the courage to take that risk when I had a pretty nice lifestyle as is.”

Jeanne and Don Jacobs enjoy the sun on Oconomowoc Lake in 1994. 
Submitted photo

Don Jacobs acquired multiple other franchises over the years, including two Subaru franchises that he was initially afraid to promote because imports weren’t as accepted back in the 1970s as they are today, Dave Jacobs said.

“He really appreciated and enjoyed all his employees. He always said that people never worked for him - they worked with him,” Dave Jacobs said.

“He was determined, goal-oriented, fair, down-to-earth and honest with people. All those things gave him the good name he had in business.”

Don Jacobs’ funeral was held March 4 p.m. at Cesarz, Charapata & Zinnecker Funeral Home. The committal service took place at 11:00 a.m. March 5, at St. Joseph Catholic Cemetery.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions in honor of Don may be given to the American Diabetes Association of Wisconsin, 375 Bishops Way, Suite 220, Brookfield, WI 53005.