A Tribute To My Father On His Birthday

Lee Gartner

Ernest Lee Gartner January 12, 1921 – June 13, 2009

Today marks the birthday of my late father, Ernest Lee Gartner. If he were still around he would be 97 years old today. In this special post, I thought I would take a moment to reflect on his influence in my life that has helped make me into the person I am today.

Strict Work Ethic

Ernest Lee Gartner, who married Lewis Reed’s daughter, Mary Jane, joined Reed Brothers Dodge in 1949. When Lewis Reed passed away on January 28, 1967, my dad took over the leadership helm and continued the business as Dealer Principal making Reed Brothers Dodge a 2nd generation dealer. My father was a kindhearted, stubborn, difficult, witty, and an amazingly savvy businessman. My dad gave me his strong points and showed me the blueprint for how to be successful: including a strong work ethic and instilling within me the belief that I can achieve whatever it is that I desire.

Lead By Example

I learned from his example and internalized his high expectations. He went to work every day until the day he died. Some people might have called him a workaholic, but he never gave anything less than 100% to his job. He has handed down his natural leadership abilities, which have helped me achieve a number of career “firsts” while I was with the The United States Air Force Band, and ultimately reach the top enlisted position as the first female Command Chief of a premier Air Force unit.

Never Stop Learning

What I learned from my father that made me a better person was his example of always trying to learn more. Although he graduated from Strayer College with a degree in business, he learned a lot through hands-on experience at the dealership. He was invested in self-improvement and always read books, magazines and newspapers. This was a great influence growing up and helped me put ongoing time into learning. Ask questions when you don’t understand something and don’t be afraid to seek out more information. Looking back, researching solutions to problems was a completely natural process for me thanks to my father’s example.

Anything Worth Doing Is Worth Doing Well

My father taught me that I can do anything I set my mind to and that anything worth doing is worth doing well. It’s great advice I still live by today. His example made a lasting impact on me and I have to credit him for my constant quest for knowledge and excellence.


My father’s greatest gift to me was the drive to persevere. He taught me courage in the face of adversity, more than any other human being I have ever met. Lee Gartner successfully navigated Reed Brothers Dodge through numerous Chrysler setbacks during the 1970’s and 80’s, including the first Chrysler Bailout, the sale of Chrysler to Daimler, and the sale to the private equity firm Cerberus. He applied his 30+ years experience with Reed Brothers to meet the challenges of gasoline shortages, high interest rates, severe inflation, and weakening consumer confidence which drove Chrysler into financial crisis. This survival is testimony that he not only conquered setbacks, but often rebounded to reach new levels of success. He was a hard worker, he was the type that persevered.

I will always remember my dad as a successful businessman whose persistent energy was always there for family first, but in equal measure for the public he served. He was smart and also honest and dependable – characteristics that kept Reed Brothers Dodge at the pinnacle of auto dealerships throughout his career.

I never had a chance to tell my dad how much I admired him, but I remain proud of him and his accomplishments. Lee Gartner continued what Lewis Reed built from the ground up and helped make Reed Brothers Dodge into a successful family business that lasted almost a century.

I think of you, Dad, every day. For all who read this post, if you are lucky enough to still have your father with you, honor and treasure him, if not, remember him with a happy thought and a prayer for all he gave you.

Happy Birthday, Dad!

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About Reed Brothers

I am a co-owner of the former Reed Brothers Dodge in Rockville, Maryland. Lewis Reed, the founder of Reed Brothers Dodge was my grandfather. We were a family-owned and operated car dealership in Rockville for almost a century. I served in the United States Air Force for 30 years before retiring in the top enlisted grade of Chief Master Sergeant in July 2006. In 2016, I received the Arthur M. Wagman Award for Historic Preservation Communication from Peerless Rockville for documenting the history of Reed Brothers Dodge in both blog and book format. This distinguished honor recognizes outstanding achievement by writers, educators, and historians whose work has heightened public awareness of Rockville’s architectural and cultural heritage, growth and development.

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