As the cliché goes, loyalty begets loyalty. And no one knows this better than Howard Cooper, the 83-year-old owner of the Howard Cooper auto dealership in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
When Cooper decided to sell the dealership he had owned and operated for 47 years to the Columbus, Ohio-based Germain Motor Company in April of 2011, his main concern was for his nearly 90 employees. He made sure that each one of them would retain their job.
“My employees are very important to me and the reason for my success,” Cooper told AnnArbor.com. “I know of a couple of buyers who would have paid more, but taking care of my employees was important to me.”
Even as he safeguarded his employees, he had additional plans up his sleeve for them. At the retirement party in September 2012, his employees expected a speech, some words of thanks and some hugs.
But along with those, he gave his employees an astoundingly generous gift. He handed each of them a bonus check that amounted to $1000 for each year they had worked for him at his landmark dealership, the Howard Cooper Import Center.
“I wanted to thank my employees and that was a way I could do it,” Cooper told AnnArbor.com. “I hope it makes a difference in their lives like they have made in mine.”
And a difference it will make. For some of the other employees, the sum of money is going to be substantial. Mechanic Bob Jenkins has worked in the car dealership for 26 years, while bookkeeper, Sandy Reagan has been employed by Cooper for 46 years.
“It was absolutely a surprise,” Katie Kowalski, a cashier/receptionist at the dealership, told Yahoo News. “Some started crying. Everyone was excited.” Working there for a year, Kowalski described her $1,000 bonus as “the biggest generosity I’ve encountered in my life.”
Given the scope of his gift, some of his workers went away with checks that exceeded the amount of cash they had in their bank accounts. For Jenkins, the mechanic, his $26,000 check will be used for his two sons, aged five and nine.
“To some that check was a huge windfall and their lives will be altered by it,” said General Manager George Davis, who has worked for 20 years, at the dealership that was established in 1965. “For others, maybe it won’t change much and it was a nice gesture.”
“But more important than the dollars was the fact that he did this,” Davis said of Cooper. “He is very close to us as employees, and we are close to him. He didn’t have to do this. A farewell would have been just fine enough for us.”
The retiring businessman is seen as a father figure, a protective boss and a generous man by his workers. As he moves on to the next stage of his life, Cooper leaves behind high praise, deep appreciation and much respect. What a legacy of love and philanthropy!Sources: Yahoo, Huffington Post, and AnnArbor.com. Picture from Howard’s website: howardcooper.com