John Jay “Jack” Pohanka, chairman of the Pohanka Automotive Group of 16 Washington-area auto dealerships and President of the National Automobile Dealers Association, died May 17 at a hospice in West Palm Beach. He was 92.
He was the son of Frank Pohanka who was born in the Bronx, ran away from home in his eighth grade year, found a job at a Long Island horse farm and became a jockey. But he had weight problems and had to find something else to do the rest of his life.
He returned to New York City, read every book on automobiles in the library, became a car mechanic and was hired by General Motors. GM transferred him to a Chevy dealership in Washington.
In 1919 he opened his own Chevrolet dealership in N.W. Washington and became noted as a master mechanic. In 1923 he moved to 1126 20th Street, N.W. and became an Oldsmobile dealer. He converted a movie theater into a three-car showroom and converted a Civil War-era livery stable into a repair shop. He died in 1958.
His son Jack grew up in Washington, attended Sidwell Friends School and graduated from Princeton with a degree in economics. After college he went to work for his dad. When Frank died, Jack took over.
In 1967 Jack moved Pohanka Oldsmobile to St. Barnabas Road in Marlow Heights. He acquired more franchises and locations, until today Pohanka sells nine makes of vehicles, including Honda, Lexus, Acura, Hyundai, Nissan, Chevrolet, Mercedes-Benz, Toyota and Volkswagen, and employs more than 1,400 people.
The Pohanka Automotive Group has won multiple awards including Time Magazine National Quality Dealer Award and Sports Illustrated AIADA All-Star Dealer Award for outstanding customer service.
Jack was a golfer and member of many country clubs. He was a board member of the Washington Opera and gave lectures on subjects such as Richard Wagner, Charlie Chaplin, Maria Callas and Richard Burton. In April, he was unable to deliver his lecture on Franco Zeffirelli because of the coronavirus, but you can attend his talks on YouTubeJack.
Wife Lynn, son Geoffrey, daughter Sue, grand- and great-grandchildren survive him. He was preceded in death by former wives Jean Pohanka and Lori McCalip and son Brian.
It was at Pohanka Oldsmobile on St. Barnabas Road that Jack and I bought our last car, a red Oldsmobile. Only weeks later Olds folded.
Neighbors & other good people
Lt. John “Zeek” Teletchea is retiring after 24 years with the Prince George’s County Police and as Union president. He has accepted a civilian job as armorer with the department. He has other reasons, too, to be happy—daughter Morgan received her RN in June and is working at Baltimore Washington Hospital; son Marshall, a proud Marine, just returned from Okinawa.
Former Morningsider Jan Stocklinski appreciated the information about Jerry Richardson in a recent column. That news was not good—Jerry had died. Jan hadn’t talked to him in a long time, but they both once taught at Suitland Junior High School. They often met at teachers’ Christmas get-togethers to reminisce about those school years.
Jan saw some of those colleagues on Feb. 29 when she spoke at the retirement of Gary McCorkle. He had been a student at Suitland JH and went on to be an administrator for the County Schools.
Monsignor T. Ansgar Laczko is celebrating his 60th anniversary as a priest of the Archdiocese while living out retirement in a cabin in rural Martinsburg, W.Va. One of his parishes was St. Margaret of Scotland, Seat Pleasant.
Jody Bowman Nyers was going through her deceased mother-in-law’s items and came across journal entries referring to a bar, 1952-1953, called The Kitchen or Haney’s Bar in Suitland? Does anyone recognize those names?
The Fish Market in Clinton is still shut down, following a racist remark by one of the owners. Protests and boycott followed. Apologies were made, but were apparently not enough. It’s sad; here in South County we don’t have a wealth of sit-down restaurants. And I miss the clam chowder.
Crossland HS: Show Biz 1980
My Aug. 7, 1980 column mentions several local VIPs:
“All My Children” fans may recall that Dr. Cliff Warner was really Pete Bergman, Crossland Class of 1971. And his wife, Christine Ebersole, was on Broadway playing opposite Richard Burton in “Camelot.”
Crossland ‘71 also boasted Kevin Fisher who was starring in “Practice,” Off-Off-Broadway at the Perry St. Theatre. Kevin was the son of the Paul and Nina Fisher, of Camp Springs.
Betty Whittington, Board of Ed retiree
Mary Elizabeth “Betty” Whittington, 91, Surrattsville HS graduate, died at her daughter’s home in Louisville, Ky., on July 21.
Following high school, she was a clerk at the Census Bureau, then worked at Ross Jewelers in Washington before becoming a health aide for the Prince George’s Board of Education for 21 years.
She was a longtime member of Holy Family Church, Heritage Harbour Women’s Club, and the Ladies Auxiliary of the American Legion. She enjoyed reading and doing word searches.
Her husband of 51 years, Joseph Melvin Whittington, predeceased her.
Survivors include daughters Darlene (Peter) Whittington-Ward and Joanne (Rick) Nance, two grandchildren and four sisters-in-law.
Mass of Christian Burial was at Holy Family with burial at Resurrection Cemetery.
Happy birthday to my choir director Frank Howard, Justine Poe, Paul M. Locke, Harietta Boo Henson, my granddaughter Nina McHale and Dan Needham, Sept. 6; Melissa Howell, Sept. 7; Mike Dawes, Sept. 9; Charlie Deegan, twins Robert Andrew and John Dexter Woods and Nan Brown, Sept. 10; and Carol Lee, Sept. 11.
Remembering my husband Jack McHale who was born Sept. 11, 1925 in Houston. He died Aug. 2, 2004.