Brookings remembers Ron Einspahr
BROOKINGS — On June 7, 1941, Ronald K. Einspahr was born a cornhusker to Syl and Edna (Denker) Einspahr in Imperial, Nebraska.
He would grow up and get his education there, graduating from Chase County High School in 1959. He would go on to the University of Nebraska, where he met Jon Anne Henderson. They would marry in 1966 and have two sons: Matthew and Clayton.
When the opportunity presented itself, he moved his young family to Brookings on Nov. 1, 1969, and became owner of Einspahr Ford. He was 28 years old at the time. Brookings would remain his home until his death on Friday, May 19, 2023.
In the more than five decades of his life here, Ron would become a true pillar of the community: a successful and well-liked businessman who promoted Brookings at every opportunity. Early on in his career he became active with the Chamber of Commerce and spent 12 years as chairman of the Brookings Area Development Corporation. In 1986, he and Ron Reed co-founded the Brookings Economic Development Center, South Dakota’s “first incubator center.”
As Ron Einspahr was recognized for his success in the business world, those who worked with him and had business dealings with him recall him as a boss and a man who met them one-on-one and was interested in their getting on in the world — both in business and in life.
“I started working for Ron when I was 18 years old and worked for him for 21 years,” recalled Gordon Bortnem. “I left and started a business on my own. Back in retirement I’m chasing some cars for him. I go on dealer trades when he needs something picked up, like in Minneapolis. Matt (Einspahr) told me the other day ‘It’s hard to get rid of you. Now you’re back.’
“Ron’s just a fantastic individual. He’s the first one to give somebody an opportunity. Like I say, I started working for him when I was 18 years old, washing cars. They appointed me to assistant service manager.” When the service manager died of cancer, Einspahr appointed Bortnem, then 23, to replace him.
“He took a real chance,” Bortnem said. “Then the last five years I worked for Ron, I went into sales. Then when my son, Chad, and I started Bortnem’s Vinyl Pro, we did interior repair for car dealers. We had 28 dealers that we worked for. Einspahr was one of our biggest accounts, my son still works for Einspahr.
“Ron was just a great guy, a fantastic employer and a great friend.”
Longtime Brookings business owner Robb Jones paid tribute to Einspahr as a man who put others before himself: “Ron’s passing is a tremendous loss. He always put Brookings first and defined what it means to be a friend, leader and ambassador for this community.”
To Ron, loyalty was a two-street and his employees recognized that. And that was out front in their dealings with Einspahr Auto Plaza customers.
General Sales Manager Ryan Ramstad has been at Einspahr since July 1998, so he’s “going on close to 25 years.” He started as finance manager: “He always really cared about his employees. That always came across that they were not just an employee. I always felt that we were more than that to Ron. He felt basically that if he treated us well that we would all do our jobs — and he empowered us to do our jobs. If he treated us well then we were going to do our jobs well and treat our customers well in return.”
Einspahr was also active in his faith. As a member of Abundant Life Church he was leader of the Board of Servants and an active promoter of the church’s most recent endeavor: Sozo House, a place to serve the youth of Brookings as a Jesus-centered outreach.
Funeral services have been set for 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, May 31, at the Swiftel Center in Brookings. Visitation will be Tuesday from 5 to 7 p.m. at Abundant Life Church.
Contact John Kubal at [email protected].