Daryl Geweke believes one of the greatest charities a person can contribute to is to employ productive people. One of his reasons for getting into business was to grow, develop and retain people, he said. So for the last 46 years, Geweke has made that his goal and has provided jobs to countless people in Lodi as well as in other communities in the Central Valley.
"What more can you do for society than hire, train and develop for people to grow in society?" he said.
For his contributions to business, Geweke was inducted into the Lodi Community Hall of Fame. He has always based his life on faith, family, fitness and financial strength.
"If any of those four are out of whack, you have a problem," he said.
Geweke got his start as a car salesman and then opened his first Ford dealership in Downtown Lodi in 1966. He eventually bought out his partner, and the business, Green Ford Sales, became Geweke Ford. He built the current Geweke Ford dealership on Cherokee Lane in 1973.
As a young boy, Geweke often went into town with his mother to sell wares from the family farm. He would sneak away to the car dealerships, where he loved the smell of new cars.
"When I was five, that's when I decided I was going to be a car dealer," he said. "You have to have a passion for what you want to do."
Also in 1966, Geweke broadened his ventures to real estate and purchased many homes and apartments in the local area. Eventually, his automotive businesses expanded to include Geweke Toyota, Geweke Dodge Chrysler Jeep, Kia, Geweke RV and Geweke Body and Tow. Along with his son Larry Geweke, he also formed Larry Geweke Ford and Larry Geweke Kia in Yuba City/Marysville.
In the late '70s and early '80s, his business grew to include the Lodi Motor Inn, a convenience store, a car wash and an office/retail building. He eventually owned 10 hotels from Tracy to Lodi and up to Natomas and Yuba City. Today, he owns six hotels, one of which is Hampton Inn & Suites in Lodi.
His reason for expansion was his love for people and his work.
"I figure if you're green, you grow, and if you're ripe, you rot," he said.
Pastor Bill Cummins, a friend, describes Geweke as a delightful, engaging and energetic man who has made great contributions to the community. He says Geweke's work ethic, visionary thinking and concern for people are what has driven his success.
"He is a great example of a true business entrepreneur, who came here with nothing and over a number of decades has established a number of businesses that have added great value to our town," Cummins said.
Over the years, Geweke has also spent his time supporting local charities. He created the Geweke Youth Service Award, which helps local nonprofit organizations that benefit youths.
He also helped to incorporate Pink October Breast Cancer Awareness Month in Lodi after his son, Larry Geweke, established it in Yuba City. The month-long education and awareness program holds fundraisers including a golf tournament, fashion show and a 5k run/walk race. The purpose of Pink October is to save lives and its events have been valuable to many people, he said.
Other organizations Geweke supports includes Salvation Army's Hope Harbor shelter and the San Joaquin Chapter of United Cerebral Palsy, which educates, advocates and provides support services for people with a range of disabilities.
He has been honored for his service to the community by receiving the Tourism Advocate of the Year Award during the grand opening of his hotels in 2009, and the Man of the Year Award through United Cerebral Palsy. He also served as grand marshal in the Parade of Lights.
Geweke was born in Tecumseh, Neb., where he was raised on a farm and graduated from Tecumseh High School in 1943. He then joined the Merchant Marines in 1943 and trained in Southern California on Catalina Island. He served in World War II and then returned to California in 1949. That same year, he married Opal and they had four children.
Other inductees this year include Angelo and Barbara Brovelli, who both provided many years of service to the Lodi Boys and Girls Club, for their contributions to community service; David Lucas, the owner of Lucas Winery who was instrumental in the formation of the original Lodi Vintners group, for his contributions to agriculture; Dr. Jack Leary, the first orthopedic surgeon in Lodi who pioneered total hip and knee replacements, who was chosen posthumously for his contributions to health care; and Jack Fiori, who helped save the Grape Bowl and a founding member of the Booster of Boys/Girls Sports, for his contributions to government.
The Hall of Fame is sponsored by the Lodi Boys and Girls Club. Inductees will be honored at a dinner and program scheduled for Oct. 20 at 5:30 p.m. at the Boys and Girls Club headquarters, 275 Poplar St., near the corner of Stockton Street. Tickets are $45 each. To make a reservation or for other inquiries, call Eddie Cotton at 209-334-2697.