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Business leader Rick Warner dies

Richard L. (Rick) Warner
Richard L. (Rick) Warner

Richard L. (Rick) Warner passed away Tuesday, June 19, 2007. He was 83.

Mr. Warner probably will be best remembered as one of Utah's leading businessmen and an accomplished athlete.

He once said, however, that while those things were important to him, he would like most to be thought of for the way he treated people both in business and on the (tennis) court.

At the age of 9, his father bought him a used tennis racquet for 75 cents. That racquet would lead to a long and lustrous life in tennis.

Family members recall that wherever Mr. Warner traveled, he carried along a tennis racquet, and that no matter the business at hand, "Dad managed to squeeze in tennis."

He won his first tournament at the age of 15. He went on to play for East High and later the University of Utah. He won numerous tennis titles, including gold in the Utah Senior Games. He continued to play tennis up until his death. He also was a state racquetball champion.

Mr. Warner's automotive career started in 1946 when he sold his first car, a Ford, for what was then the Bennett Ford dealership. In 1964, he bought the dealership and in 1971 renamed it Rick Warner Ford, thereby launching what was to become the Warner dynasty.

While his loyalties remained with Ford, a long list of cars and light- and heavy-duty trucks would fall under the Warner franchise, including Chrysler, Plymouth, Nissan, Pontiac, Mazda and Toyota, Saturn, Lincoln, Mercury, Suzuki, Yugo, Mitsubishi, Volvo, Chevrolet, Delorean, Maserati, Buick, Geo, Hyundai, Sterling and LaForza.

In 1985, Time magazine named Mr. Warner a finalist for its Quality Dealer Award.

Mr. Warner's sister, Emma Lou Thayne, remembers a time when her older brother found her crying on the schoolyard playground. He took her inside and convinced the school that she should be promoted from kindergarten to first grade to be with him.

"He was a salesman even then," she recalled.

Mr. Warner retired from the automotive business in 1995 to serve an LDS mission, along with his wife, Marian, to Hawaii. Many of those who knew Mr. Warner called their association one of their "most rewarding."

"Knowing Rick Warner was probably one of the more important times of my life," remembered Ellis Ivory, chairman of the board for the Deseret Morning News and Mr. Warner's longtime tennis partner. "He taught me that it was possible to lead a balanced life between church, family, friends and sports," said Ivory, adding he hasn't talked to anyone who had anything other than kind words to say about Mr. Warner.

Robert Garff, CEO of Garff Enterprises, said of Mr. Warner: "He was gracious as a sponsor of many, many community things over the years. He always paid attention to people. If I ranked community leaders and what he's done for this community, he'd be up there with the best."

R. Lane Beattie, CEO of the Salt Lake Chamber and former president of the Utah Senate, said Mr. Warner had a tremendous impact on the state's economy and added that his influence will be felt for generations.

Mr. Warner is survived by his wife, Marian, nine children, 45 grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.

The viewing will be Sunday at Sunset Lawn, 2350 E. 1300 South, 6-8 p.m. The funeral will be Monday at noon at the Monument Park Stake House, Wasatch Drive and 1300 South. Friends may call one hour prior to services. Internment will be in the Wasatch Lawn Cemetery.