Don Beyer Sr., a retired Army lieutenant colonel who became a prominent auto dealer in the Washington area and whose son Don Beyer Jr. is a Democratic member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Virginia, died Dec. 23 at a rehabilitation facility in Loudoun County. He was 93.
He had pneumonia, said a daughter, Sandra Beyer.
Col. Beyer, who was known as Buck, was interested in automobiles from childhood and raced cars and motorcycles in his younger days. He opened his first auto dealership in Falls Church, Va., in 1973.
He wanted to call the business “Pirate Motors,” with the slogan “where your wallet walks the plank.”
His wife vetoed that idea, and the dealership was called simply Don Beyer Volvo.
When he opened the doors, Col. Beyer said his goal was to sell a car a day. In the past year, according to his family, the nine Beyer franchises throughout Northern Virginia sold more than 5,000 Volvos, Kias, Land Rovers, Mazdas, Subarus and Volkswagens.
Donald Sternoff Beyer was born Jan. 6, 1924, in New York City. He moved to the Washington area as a boy and grew up on a farm in McLean, Va.
His father was a labor negotiator and onetime chairman of the National Mediation Board. His mother once headed the Bureau of Labor Standards.
By the age of 6, Col. Beyer was repairing the family car, and at 12, according to his family, he built one with spare parts scavenged from a junkyard.
He graduated from the old Western High School in the District and was a 1946 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., where he was a member of the wrestling team.
In the late 1940s, he served at a displaced-persons camp in Korea. He spent much of his Army career as a military police officer and was provost marshal at West Point from 1952 to 1955.
He also headed the military police unit on the Pacific atoll of Eniwetok, where the United States conducted atomic bomb tests in the 1950s.
Col. Beyer retired from the Army in 1966 and worked for the L.P. Steuart auto business in Washington before launching his own business.
He turned day-to-day management over to his sons in the 1980s, but “he kept his finger in the business until the end,” Don Beyer Jr. said in an interview. Col. Beyer lived in Falls Church and, in later years, toured the country with his wife in motor homes.
His wife of 51 years, the former Nancy McDonald, died in 1999. A daughter, Kathy Beyer, died in 2014.
Survivors include five children: Beyer Jr. of Alexandria, a former Virginia lieutenant governor who was elected to Congress in 2014 ; Sherry Beyer of Falls Church; Marylee “Weetie” Hill of Vienna, Va.; Sandra Beyer of Menomini, Mich.; and Michael Beyer of Falls Church. He had 14 grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren.
His companion of seven years was Betty Knight of Leesburg, Va.
Col. Beyer, who was a charter member of NASCAR, gave up auto racing when he got married. But he always a drove muscle cars, Beyer Jr. said. His most recent car was a 485-horsepower Dodge Charger.