Honoree a driving force in automobile industry

Bill Schicker left a job at the brewery 58 years ago to begin a career from the ground up in the automobile industry. Today he owns McMahon Ford and four other regional dealerships.

Bill Schicker left a job at the brewery 58 years ago to begin a career from the ground up in the automobile industry. Today he owns McMahon Ford and four other regional dealerships.

By BILL MILLIGAN

Bill Schicker, owner of McMahon Ford and four other regional dealerships, left work at the brewery downtown 58 years ago to begin a career from the ground up in the automobile industry.

Schicker, 75, of Sunset Hills is among 20 “Ageless-Remarkable St. Louisans” who will be honored Nov. 1 by St. Andrews Re-sources for Seniors.

“When I got out of high school, my dad had a job for me at the brewery,” Schicker recalled. “It lasted 90 days. In those days you could sit at your desk all day and drink beer. They had refrigerators around every corner. Those guys would sit there all day drinking and they didn’t have any workers’ compensation in those days …”

His friend Frank Bommarito told him he had found a job at McMahon driving new cars all day. It wasn’t long before Schicker stopped by McMahon looking for a similar job.

“We didn’t have cars,” Schicker told the Call. “I walked in and asked for a job, too. I was a big, lanky, dumb-looking kid. The manager was named Frank Southard and he was from Georgia. He decided to have a little fun with me so he asked what I wanted. I told him I was looking for a job.”

When asked what his skills were, he replied, “I can drive cars.”

“The whole shop was laughing at that point,” Schicker recalled.

Southard offered him a job sweeping out the body shop and Schicker accepted. That was 1952. Today, he owns dealerships in Missouri from St. Louis to Washington.

He had a hand in crafting the federal government’s Cash for Clunkers program as the National Auto Dealer Association’s representative for Missouri.

Schicker credits his wife of 51 years, Mary Lou, for his “Ageless-Remarkable St. Louisan” honor.

“My wife’s example of volunteerism is incredible. She had every one of our kids down at Guardian Angel or at Father Support or any of the other charities she had,” he said. “She had them cleaning and folding clothes, making kits like deodorant and stuff for street guys. Every one of our kids worked as a volunteer. And our grandkids.

“We got an award from Colin Powell in 1995 for volunteerism. It was really a great thing for my wife and our family.”

The Guardian Angel Settlement is a 150-year-old project started by Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul.

“We take care of indigent kids,” Schicker said. “The parent has to work for Guardian Angels to take the kids. We’re building a brand new settlement on Vandeventer and Finney. We’ll be able to hold 180 children in there. It’s going to be beautiful. There will be a medical room.”

Schicker has raised more than $4 million in the last 18 months to put the project together.

“We had a building on 14th and LaSalle, Holy Angels Church and School, abandoned years ago. We put a thrift store in there and it was highly successful. We sold it to the city last year.”

Another Schicker project is Earth An-gels, a group that teaches art fundamentals to underprivileged children. Instruction comes from art professors at local colleges and universities.

Among his most rewarding charity ef-forts are his efforts on behalf of Back-Stoppers, which benefits the families of police and firefighters who have died in the line of duty.

“I’m on the BackStoppers board. It’s one of the best charities anyone could be involved with,” Schicker said.

Schicker was named Time Magazine’s Quality Automotive Dealer of the Year in 1988.

Despite the many honors he has received over the years, he said, “I’m uncomfortable with recognition.”