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Don Wessel died Feb. 6 at age 86.
Don Wessel died Feb. 6 at age 86.

Don Wessel dies at 86

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Don Wessel, founder of Don Wessel Honda and a founding member of the Ozarks Technical Community College Board of Trustees, died yesterday. He was 86.

Wessel served on the OTC board from 1990 until his 2008 retirement, including a stint as president 1992-94.

“Mr. Wessel played an important role in the creation of OTC and was a dedicated member of our board for many years,” OTC Chancellor Hal Higdon said in a news release. “We are thankful for the support he provided in his lifetime.”

In his career, Wessel started out as a Chevrolet salesman in the 1950s in Cincinnati, Ohio, his hometown. After owning a Buick dealership in Tulsa, Okla., Wessel moved to Springfield in 1966 to start an Oldsmobile dealership. In the 1970s, Wessel began selling Honda vehicles, according to Springfield Business Journal archives.

"In 1972, a young man from Honda came by and said, ‘Would you like to be a Honda dealer?’ and I said, ‘I don’t ride motorcycles.’ But he said it was cars. In 1972, little Honda cars were almost unknown to everybody," Wessel said in a 2006 conversation with SBJ. "So I said yes. It started off kind of slow, and then came the fuel crisis in 1973 … Hondas exploded. It’s just grown since then."

Oldsmobile was the flagship brand of Wessel's dealership for more than three decades, but the company dropped the line after General Motors stopped manufacturing the vehicles, according to SBJ archives. The last Oldsmobile was built in 2004, according to CNNMoney.

Don Wessel Honda, 3520 S. Campbell Ave., sells new and used Hondas and provides parts and services, according to its Web site.

A car enthusiast, Wessel collected cars such as Rolls Royces, Jaguars and Cadillacs. He also enjoyed films and played tennis for about 25 years.

In a 2008 interview with SBJ, J. Howard Fisk, owner of J. Howard Fisk Limousines Inc. and president of the OTC Board of Trustees, said he considered Wessel to be a personal mentor.

"Don's my best friend and a great mentor," Fisk said at the time. "When I met Don, my father was gone already. He died before I finished college. (Wessel) is a great role model and community servant."

Wessel was named the 1987 Springfieldian by the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce, for which he also served as chairman of the board in 1980.

He also served as president of the Lester E. Cox Medical Centers Board of Directors, the Springfield Symphony Association, the Ozarks Red Cross, the Springfield Area Council of Churches, the Missouri Automobile Dealers Association and Ozarks Public Television. He also was a former chairman of the American Red Cross and First Night Springfield, and a member of the boards of the History Museum for Springfield-Greene County, the Boys and Girls Clubs of Springfield and Drury University, according to the OTC release.[[In-content Ad]]

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