Longtime Omaha car dealer John Edward Kraft can be considered a trailblazer. Son Randy Kraft of Omaha noted some of his father's business firsts:
» He was the first dealer to be open Sundays in Omaha, starting in the early 1980s at John Kraft Chevrolet.
» His dealership was the first in Omaha to have a service department open until 9 p.m., beginning in the 1970s.
» His operation had the first female salespeople and service advisers, in the 1970s.
John Kraft, 81, died Sunday at Bergan Mercy Medical Center. Autopsy results were pending, but family members said it appeared his death was the result of a heart attack.
Kraft bought the former Pappas Chevrolet, 6210 Military Ave., in 1969 and renamed it John Kraft Chevrolet. He relocated to 85th and Military in May 1973.
He operated the dealership and a separate used car business until 2000, when he sold them to Gregg Young.
“He built that dealership from a fledgling business when he bought it to, within four to five years, the largest Chevrolet dealership in Nebraska,” Randy Kraft said.
John Kraft's wife, Carlene, said her husband had “wonderful, wonderful rapport with employees and customers alike.”
He was president of the Omaha New Car Dealers Association, a member of the board of Douglas County Bank and served on the Omaha zone dealer council for Chevrolet dealers.
He and his firm sponsored numerous Little League and youth basketball teams. Kraft contributed to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln athletic program and was a member of the Wheels Club, which provides cars for UNL coaches.
He was born and raised in Audubon, Iowa, and graduated from high school there. He served in the Navy during the Korean War.
He attended business school in Des Moines and worked for the former Iowa-Des Moines National Bank. He worked for Bob Brown Chevrolet in Des Moines from 1961-69, leaving as general manager.
Besides his wife of 56 years and son Randy, other survivors include his children Debi McBride, Mike Kraft and Greg Kraft, all of Omaha; 14 grandchildren; and two great-granddaughters.
Services begin at 10 a.m. Friday at Faith-Westwood United Methodist Church, 4814 Oaks Lane.