Right after World War II, many Americans found cars hard to come by until the country's auto factories returned to full production.
It was against that backdrop that, according to family members, a passer-by repeatedly asked Lucien Robert "Bob" Bouchat to sell him a 1939 Mercury that was in his parents' driveway. That was the very first car he sold and began his life's work as a car dealer.
Mr. Bouchat, founder of Bouchat Buick GMC Inc. and Bouchat Oldsmobile-Cadillac-Subaru Inc., died Saturday at Forbes Hospice, after a long illness following congestive heart failure. He was 81.
Mr. Bouchat was a native of West Tarentum, and raised in the Natrona Heights area of Harrison. He attended Har-Brack High School and went to Yale University.
While he was attending Yale and playing intramural baseball, head coach Red Rolfe invited him to try out for the team. He did, and became the new left fielder and leadoff hitter.
He was a member of the class of 1946, and also was part of the ROTC program but did not graduate and was sent to war. He served in the Navy during World War II, in the Pacific Theater and occupied Japan.
While hitchhiking home from California after the war, he was involved in a serious accident that left him paralyzed, but after months of rehabilitation and with the care of his wife, he was able to walk again.
He returned to Natrona Heights and stayed at his parents' home to finish his recovery. It was during that time that his future as an automotive dealer surfaced.
In 1948, Mr. Bouchat started Bob's Used Car Lot in Natrona Heights, and he later founded Bouchat Buick Co. in 1958 and Bouchat Oldsmobile-Cadillac in 1961. Both are still in business.
He was active in numerous social, fraternal and philanthropic organizations, including Brackenridge Heights Country Club; Oakmont Country Club; the Solomon Lodge 231 of the Free and Accepted Masons; the Syria Shriners AAONMS of Pittsburgh and the Royal Order of Jesters Court No. 2 of Pittsburgh.
Mr. Bouchat also was a member of the Disabled American Veterans and VFW Post 894 in Natrona Heights.
He was an avid golfer and accomplished gin rummy player, and family members said he loved nothing more than what he would call "a nice dinner" with family and friends and lots of singing.
"He was a real people person, and loved his business and he loved his employees," according to a statement prepared jointly by family members. "Retirement was not in his vocabulary because his employees needed him. He needed them, too. The love and the loyalty was mutual."
Surviving are his wife, Kathleen Traver Bouchat of Buffalo Township; his sons, Dr. Robert A. Bouchat of Beaumont, Texas and David B. Bouchat of Marblehead, Mass.; his daughter, Robin Friedman of Shadyside; his brother, M. Merle Bouchat of Natrona Heights; seven grandchildren and one great-grandson.
Visitation will be from 2 to 4 and 7 to 9 p.m. today at Krynicki Funeral Home, 1007 Freeport Road, Natrona Heights, with a funeral scheduled for 10:30 a.m. tomorrow. Burial will be in Mount Airy Cemetery, Harrison.
Memorial contributions may be made to Forbes Hospice, 115 S. Neville St., Pittsburgh 15213; Hillman Cancer Center, 5115 Centre Ave., Pittsburgh 15232; or the Syria Shriners, 1877 Shriners Way, Cheswick 15024.
Don Hammonds can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1538.