Jan. 4, 1934 — March 6, 2019
Retirement didn't work out for Richard K. Welte.
He continued to socialize with his many friends, but it wasn't enough. After 30 years leading the Niagara Frontier Automobile Dealers Association, he missed working and meeting new people, said his daughter Jillian.
Then in 2005, the owners of Northtown Automotive Companies created the position of corporate education director for him.
"He communicated the culture of Northtown, where they are huge on treating their customers with respect," said Jillian Welte.
On March 6, Mr. Welte "went to church, as he did very Wednesday morning for 50-plus years," said his daughter. He led a training session at Northtown, then returned to his Williamsville home. "He passed away peacefully in his favorite chair before he was set to go out to dinner with a group of friends," she said. He was 85.
Working at Northtown, "Dick was in his glory," Betty Murphy, executive vice president of the Niagara Frontier Automobile Dealers Association, said in a statement. He was "constantly talking about how the positive environment and the energy of the Schreiber family and their associates were 'keeping him young.' "
Richard Knight Welte was the only child of Eugene J. and Gladys Knight Welte. His father was an insurance agent. Mr. Welte, known as "Dick," graduated from Williamsville High School in 1951, and attended the University of Buffalo and Millard Fillmore College.
On Aug. 3, 1957, he married Jenny Rebecca "Becky" Albrecht. They had three children.
From 1962 to 1969, he worked at WBEN-TV, lastly as an account executive. A skilled pianist who could play any music by ear, he also entertained in supper clubs throughout the area. Mr. Welte was known for his dapper appearance, always sporting a silk pocket square.
In 1971, he was named executive vice president of the Niagara Frontier Automobile Dealers Association. Murphy said Mr. Welte created many programs that improved dealership efficiency.
He quickly took an active role as a liaison between customers and dealers. In 1972, he told the Buffalo Evening News that he averaged about 10 complaining phone calls a day. "If a consumer has a problem he can't resolve where he bought his car, he should call me," he said. Mr. Welte said that he could often resolve an issue with a single phone call.
In 1973, he helped create NFADA Wholesale Distributors, and in 1985 introduced self-funded medical and dental programs to Association members, Murphy said. He and other dealers brought ADESA, a large auto auction, to Newfane in 1992.
With John Lyboldt, Mr. Welte created ADACC, a sub-prime finance company that helped dealers obtain financing for customers, and served as chairman of the board of that company. He was a long-time member of the Automotive Trade Association Executives and was also involved in the National Automobile Dealers Association and Northwood Institute, now Northwood University in Midland, Mich.
He was a former board president of the Automotive Trade Association Executives in Washington, D.C., and former president of the Automotive Consumer Action Program. In 1994, the Automotive Trade Association, through Northwood University, named Mr. Welte its Executive of the Year.
Mr. Welte served on the boards of many local organizations, including Hospice Buffalo, Junior Achievement, the Burchfield Penney Art Center, Meals on Wheels of Western New York, Evergreen Health, MusicalFare Theatre, Canterbury Woods, CMH Counseling and the Roswell Park Art Alliance Committee. He was a co-founder and former board member of Crime Stoppers of Erie County.
In 2003, he served on the committee for "Art on Wheels," a project to convert vehicles donated by car dealers into public art. Mr. Welte said the dealers enjoyed celebrating the area's rich automotive history. "It used to be that one in every nine people in the Buffalo area worked in or were associated with the auto industry," he said.
Mr. Welte was a former member of the Buffalo Yacht Club and New York Athletic Club who enjoyed cooking and entertaining friends, new and old. "He loved people of all ages," said his daughter Jillian. "Even when he was younger, he had friends who were older."
He was an active, lifetime member of Calvary Episcopal Church, where he served three terms as Warden, three terms on the Vestry, and was the co-chairman for its 100th anniversary celebration.
Mrs. Welte died on Sept. 12, 2016.
Besides his daughter Jillian, Mr. Welte is survived by another daughter, Jennifer, a son, Christopher, and a granddaughter.
Services will be held at 3 p.m. April 26 in Calvary Episcopal Church, 20 Milton St., Williamsville. Donations may be made to the Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, Elm and Carlton streets, Buffalo, 14203, or to Calvary Episcopal Church.