Howard M. Van Bortel
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Van Bortel, Howard

Fairport: Died peacefully at home after a brief illness at age 81 on Sunday July 17, 2011. He is survived by his wife, Patricia G. Van Bortel, children, Mary C. "Kitty" Van Bortel (Roger Garrett), Howard G. Van Bortel (Danae), George E. Van Bortel (Chounlamany) and John F. Van Bortel; grandchildren, George R. Van Bortel, Patricia G. Garrett, Howard G. Van Bortel Jr., Grace A. Van Bortel, and Lyla M. Van Bortel. The family wishes to extend a special thank you to Howard's caregiver Christopher R. Little.

Howard was born in Palmyra on May 29, 1930, the only child of Kenneth and Edna (Martin) Van Bortel. In 1951 at the age of 21 he became the youngest Chevrolet Dealer in the United States at that time. His automobile business, Palmyra Motors grew through the 50s, 60s and 70s to 17 franchises, including Chevrolet, Oldsmobile, Chrysler-Plymouth, and Rolls Royce.

There will be a private memorial service held in his honor. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the Assisi Institute, 1400 N. Winton Rd, Rochester, NY 14609, telephone: 585-473-8731.

www.assisi-institute.org.


To Plant Memorial Trees in memory, please visit our Sympathy Store.
Published in Rochester Democrat And Chronicle from Jul. 20 to Jul. 21, 2011.
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16 entries
March 5, 2021
I started my first job at Palmyra Motors when I was 18 years old and just out of high school. I was a a little scared at first of Howard since he was my first boss and very tall. I thought is was cool when Howard would sell his Rolls Royce's to people from other countries. I think quite often about my time at Palmyra Motors. Cheryl Bowen Wagner
Cheryl Wagner
Coworker
May 19, 2015
I just found this guest book and feel compelled to write something, even though it has been almost 4 years since Howard's passing.
To start, I just want to say that Howard was one of the best friends I ever had. He was always there to talk with me during some of the most difficult periods of my life. For many years I spoke with almost everyday. He had a unique way of looking at things, which is what made him a genius at business. I loved he one liners, especially, "If you don't know where you're going, any road will take you there."
He was a kind and generous friend, a treasure. He touched many lives, for sure. I still think of him often and miss him deeply.
His legacy of kindness and business savvy lives on in his children.
Peggy Abell
August 5, 2011
A sad time, indeed. Howard was easily one of the most intelligent men I have ever met. He knew a fool when he saw one, but I never saw him act in a mean or small-spirited way, because he was not a small man. I often heard people remark on how he would listen, intently, to whatever they had to say. A shame that others sometimes didn't listen to him. Others who did benefited from his insights. I remember one dealer he rescued from the recession of the early '80s. We walked into his showroom on the day, literally, that he was going to close the business. He had the demeanor and pallor of a man about to hang himself. Howard and he went into the man's office and shut the door. Four hours later, they emerged with a plan of rescue. Long story short, the dealer did very well in ensuing years by following Howard's advice to the letter. But here's the amusing thing: this dealer was quite religious. He apparently believed that Howard had either been sent to him by Jesus Christ, or was Jesus Christ himself. And Howard did absolutely nothing to dispel the notion. And who knows? As many others did, I benefited greatly from having known him. He will be missed. Rest in peace, Howard, until we meet again.
Rick Miller
July 25, 2011
My prayers and condolences to George and the Van Bortel family.
Annette Marie Burkhalter
July 22, 2011
I did know Howard and had a lot of respect for him. I worked for him for a short time in 1960 in the body shop. I will never forget Howard running down the steps and opening the door fas. He tried catch us goofing off,but was not fast enough. He is a good man ,and i will miss him...
John Blankenbergg
July 21, 2011
July 21,2011
I had the privilege to know and work with Howard for a number of years. As His Rolls Royce sales manager, He not only inspired me, but taught me so many life lessons in our years together. Not just lessons about creative marketing and pricing and techinques, but a tutelage on how to be distinct. Set apart from all others. In his view , there was no other place to buy a Rolls or even a Chevy for that matter. He had great discernment about people and wisdom about things of business and life. Many myths exist and stories told about Howard, but none compare to the man He was. He put Palmyra on the automotive map. He had a heart for people and lived life the way he saw it was to be lived. Never one to ask approval he just did His thing . Howard was a genius at finding ways to advance the business. From $49 dollars over invoice to cornering the Corvette market in the Northeast. He taught me how to connect and relate to people with money. He mentored me on the business of business. Howard always focused on friend-raising .He was one of kind, top of the heap,best of the best. So called competitors feared and reviled him. Customers loved him. They were his passion and focus. When I heard about Howard's passing I had just written down a telephone number.I wrote it down as I always have since I saw Howard do it to keep it private. Written in a stack like they are just numbers to be added up. Area code on top, prefix below, and last 4 digits on the bottom. A small lesson learned from a bigger than life man . There were hundreds more. Thank you Howard for helping me become who I am today. My condolences to Kitty and the rest of the family. I remember well when she first began at Palmyra Motors. Cut from the same cloth. Howard was so proud. Many a late night drive He and I made to NYC ,and he was just" thrilled she was in the business". Blessings to all,. Richard Weylman Boca Grande FL. & Honolulu HI.
Richard Weylman
July 20, 2011
May the many memories I know you have, bring you comfort and peace in the coming days. Howard was a brilliant, unique, funny, and all around great guy! He will be missed by many. I always enjoyed being in his presence. My sincere condolences on the loss of your husband and father.
Cindy Wallace
July 20, 2011
I did not know Howard but I always had great respect for his genius. As ayoung man he inspired me into a career in the automobile business and I have been there ever sence. He will be missed. My sympathy and Prayers to the VanBortel Family. John Brennan (Victor N.Y.)
john brennan
July 20, 2011
I did not know Howard but I always had great respect for his genius. As a young man he did inspire me to enter me to a career in the automobile business and I have been there ever sence. He will be missed. my Sympthy and goes out to the VanBortel Family. John Brennan(Victor n.y.)
john brennan
July 20, 2011
I did not know Howard but I always had great respect for his genius. As a young man he inspired me to enter a career in the Automobile business and I have been there ever sence. He will be missed. my sympathy and prayers go out to the vanBortel family. John Brennan (Victor N.Y.)
john brennan
July 20, 2011
Very sorry for the family in the loss of Mr. VanBortel. I worked for him in the 1970's...great man, I learned alot from him.He was definetly one of a kind.
Bob Cirencione
July 20, 2011
To the entire Van Bortel family I send my condolences & deepest sympathy as we share in your grief. Howard was truely one of the "Great Ones". He loved the car business and taught me so much. He will be missed by so many.
George Claery
July 20, 2011
Words seem inadequate in expressing the sadness I feel over the passing of this man I had such respect for. I am deeply saddened but filled with memories of working with this genius. My condolences and prayers to the Van Bortel family for this great loss. Karen Lattanzio
Karen Lattanzio
July 20, 2011
We bought our son's first car from him. Could not have been treated any better by any other company. A fine man that will be missed in the community.
Millie Strauss
Summerfield, FL
Millie Strauss
July 20, 2011
My condolences to the entire Van Bortel family on the loss of their Father and Wife. He was a true visionary whose sons and daughter carry on his legacy.
Barry Rutheiser
VBAC
Barry Rutheiser
July 20, 2011
Howard was an extarordinary man, a gifted marketing genius, and as quick witted as anyone I've ever known.

Stopped at a traffic light on East Ave. a bright red Rolls Royce pulled up along side, I asked Howard where he was going, he replied quickly,"looking for a rich Fire Chief" and off he went! He's gifted me with some wonderful stories and memories to remember him by, and it was an honor and privilege to know the real man, behind the myths.

My condolences to his wonderful family,God bless you all. With love, Danny
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