"He was a great guy:" Remembering beloved car salesman, Ernie von Schledorn

MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- You may know his face -- and you more likely know his dealership's jingle. FOX6 News learned late Friday, November 7th that car salesman and business owner Ernie von Schledorn has died. He was 88 years old.

Officials say von Schledorn passed away at his home.

Ernie von Schledorn's known for his saying, "Who do you know... wants to buy a car?" And of course, the jingle which indicates his main dealership is on Main St. in Menomonee Falls.

According to the dealership website...

"Ernie von Schledorn, a native of West Germany, was drafted into the Army in 1944 and spent three months as a prisoner of war in Remagen. After his release, Ernie returned to complete his studies at Frankfurt University. He jokingly describes himself as a "war bride," as he married his American sweetheart while she was working for the United States Department of State in Frankfurt.

In 1952, Ernie arrived in Milwaukee with $14. Looking for a job, he tried the breweries without success, but was able to obtain a job as a roofer at 90 cents an hour. After three months, he was delighted to find a job as a used car salesman at Edwards Motor Company. In 1955 von Schledorn joined Lou Ehlers Buick in Shorewood and within two years became the No. 1 Buick salesman in America.

Ernie von Schledorn started his own dealership in 1959 at 400 E. Capitol Drive, Milwaukee, which he operated until 1966. In 1966 he built and opened a new dealership n Menomonee Falls. In 1978 he opened another new dealership on Main Street in Menomonee Falls. Currently there are two dealership locations in the Ernie von Schledorn group; Menomonee Falls and Lomira."

FOX6 News spoke with von Schledorn's son, Eric, who shared some memories and hopes to continue his legacy.

"He did something he loved to do. He did it well with everything he had and I admire him for that,' said Eric.

The 88-year-old passed away Friday evening.

"He had a heart condition but he was supposed to get that corrected today, so we missed it by one day," said Eric.

Eric says seeing his father's legacy is what's keeping him strong. Currently there are two dealership locations in the Ernie von Schledorn group -- Menomonee Falls and Lomira.

In the auto dealership business for nearly 60 years, von Schledorn touched a lot of lives but will be mainly missed by his wife, three sons and host of grandchildren.

"He was a great guy -- the best father you could imagine. He was tough. Very disciplined, but very fair and he always gave us an opportunity and I'm very thankful for that," said Eric.

The West Germany native came to America with just $14. But with persistence and work ethic, he quickly became the number one Buick salesman in America -- eventually going on to start his first dealership in 1959.

"Our goal as a family is carry his legacy forward and I'm going to do that to the best of my ability," said Eric.

FOX6's Mike Lowe spoke with von Schledorn in May 2009, when the auto business was experiencing some tough times. Watch that story just below.

Funeral services for Ernie von Schledorn are set for Wednesday, November 12th at Feerick Funeral Home on Capitol Drive. A viewing is scheduled from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. -- and a mass and burial are scheduled for St. Monica Catholic Church in Whitefish Bay on Thursday, November 13th at 11:00 a.m.