Lyle Pearson may be best remembered not for the Land Rovers and Jaguars he sold but for his Lyle Rocks TV ads. They showed him hosing down cars or kicking the tires of vehicles on his lot.
He was really shy, said Jim Cross, his son-in-law, who became a partner in Lyle Pearson Co. in the 1990s.
But Pearson, who was a serious, sober businessman, played against the type as he rolled on a dolly out from under vehicles or whaled an air guitar to persuade you to buy his Volvos and Mercedes-Benzes.
What a good sport he was, said Kelly Amos, whose company, Communications et al, began putting the ads together eight years ago.
The ads seemed to resonate with the well-heeled buyers who could drop $30,000 to $350,000 on one of Pearsons top-of-the line vehicles.
They may be high-end cars, but that doesnt mean you cant have a good time, Amos said.
Pearson died Sunday in Boise.
He was raised in Twin Falls and was an outstanding athlete. After serving in World War II, he received a football scholarship to Notre Dame.
He worked for the Studebaker car company for 14 years before returning to Idaho. He set up a Mercedes-Benz dealership in 1969 on Capitol Boulevard adjacent to the Boise Art Museum.
Mercedes Benz wouldnt let Pearson use its name in his company name, so he called his business Lyle Pearson Co., Cross said.
He began by selling Mercedeses to farmers, Cross said. In January 1970 he sold 16 cars five new and 11 used. Later in the decade, the dealership moved to the Boise Auto Mall near the Connector and Franklin Road. In 2010, he bought a dealership in Spokane from Ford Motor Co. and began selling Jaguar, Land Rover and Volvos there.
His children remember a father who was an astute businessman, courteous and dignified, but with a penchant for driving cars a little too fast and doing some gambling.
Melissa Pearson remembers her father heading down the road on long trips with an ice cream cone in one hand and a Coke in the other. He had a sweet tooth, she said.
Cindy Pearson recalls him taking her to Las Vagas when she was 21 to teach her Black Jack and craps. I could barley keep it in my brains, she said. I could not even begin to keep up with him.
His son, Daniel King, remembers working in the dealership at age 10, sweeping floors and emptying trash cans. He was working there at age 15 in the mid-1970s when Pearson handed him the keys to a used green 1967 Ford Mustang convertible he had taken on a trade. From then on, half of Daniels paycheck went to pay off the car.
If you called Pearson at the dealership recently, you would get a message saying he was mostly retired. But King said he kept involved with the business. He still balanced the checkbook, King said.
A celebration of Pearsons life will be held at 3 p.m. Thursday at Hillcrest Country Club, 4610 Hillcrest Drive, in Boise.
Bill Roberts: 377-6408, Twitter: @IDS_BillRoberts