MANCHESTER — The auto dealership business wasn’t always easy for Edward “Eddie” Bonneville, the Manchester native with a desire for starting and growing businesses, his friends recalled.
His first dealership was American Motors, the one-time fourth American car company that, while successful in the 1960s, sputtered through the early 1980s.
The Dodge dealership that he and his father had proved better, especially when Dodge introduced the Caravan in 1984, about a year after the Bonnevilles opened the dealership.
“His life turned around with Caravan,” said longtime friend Russ Fisher. “Caravan made life a lot easier for Eddie for sure.”
Friends and family recalled Bonneville and his business acumen as they gathered Tuesday to pay their last respects at the Lambert Funeral Home. Bonneville died Friday at the age of 83. He was in Florida, where he spent most of the year with his wife and two teenaged children.
“He was a very aggressive, entrepreneurial type. If he had an opportunity to do something, he’d take the chance,” said former Mayor Raymond Wieczorek.
According to his obituary, Bonneville opened a shoeshine business at the age of 15. After a hitch in the military, he worked at his father’s gas station in the center city. He and his father started selling used cars at the corner of Webster Street and Hooksett Road, where a bank building is now located.
Bonneville & Son now occupies two locations on Hooksett Road — a Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep dealership at the site of a former furniture store, and a Kia dealership farther south.
At the company’s peak in 2003, the dealership was selling 455 vehicles a month, company officials said as they entered the funeral home. Unlike other dealers, Bonneville paid cash for his inventory, Fisher said.
“He was a good businessman; cars made him money,” Fisher said.
“He was easygoing. He didn’t get ruffled. He was very polite; believe it or not he liked the simple things in life,” said his brother-in-law, Allan Hess.
Bonneville also took up other endeavors: race horses, billiards, contract bridge and golf. He once was almost struck by lightning while golfing at Manchester Country Club, Fisher said. “When he had a passion for something,” Fisher said, “he couldn’t get enough of it.”