Beloit lost one of its best-known businessmen and a generous friend to the community with the passing of Beloit automobile dealer Roger Bryden.
“There was no better friend, no better person. He was the best,” said Al Bach, the owner of Wendy’s in South Beloit and chairman of the board of the Stateline Boys and Girls Club.
Bryden Motors New Car Sales Manager Norm Bittner said Roger Bryden left for a fishing trip to Canada last week, and passed away on Sunday. He said Roger Bryden will be remembered for being a huge part of the community and helping countless people. Bryden was still working at the dealership as of early last week, he said.
“He was still there every day in the morning on most days, giving out coffee, opening doors and greeting people and was there to thank someone for buying a car. He always showed how people should be treated,” Bittner said.
Although everyone at the dealership was mourning the owner’s passing on Monday, Bittner said business continued — just what the boss would have wanted to see.
“We sold 10 cars. He would have been happy and proud about it,” Bittner said.
In November of 2013 Roger Bryden had celebrated 50 years in business with the dealership his father, Bill Bryden, started in Beloit back in 1945. The family has been associated for decades with Chrysler, selling cars and trucks to thousands of customers all across the Stateline Area.
In an earlier interview Roger Bryden recalled fetching car parts for his father at only 10- or 11-years-old, but officially started at his father’s business in 1963. He told the Beloit Daily News in November that he enjoyed every minute of the journey, helping out with every aspect of the business.
While he started at his father’s dealership in 1963, he eventually branched out in 1982 and bought a local Oldsmobile and Nissan dealership. After Bill Bryden’s death in 1984, Roger Bryden became the principal of both dealerships. He eventually sold the Oldsmobile dealership to concentrate on the Broad Street location.
In 1985, he started an expansion project which was completed in 1987 when the showroom went from 2 cars to 13 cars. And the service department went from 6 stalls to 16.
In addition to his business, Bach said Roger Bryden was well known in Beloit for his community service. Bryden was involved in the Ambassador Club through the Greater Beloit Chamber of Commerce and Beloit Crimestoppers, and a variety of other boards and programs to benefit the community.
However, it was his service to the Stateline Boys and Girls Club for which he was most dedicated. Bach said Bryden served on almost every committee, and worked for more than 25 years on the club’s casino night fundraiser. Bach called Bryden the ultimate compassionate businessman, willing to give of his resources, time and energy.
“He was a friend to everybody,” Bach said.
Bach said his grandson recently purchased a car from Bryden Motors, the third generation of Bachs to buy a vehicle there.
“Numerous people have bought vehicles from the Bryden business, and rightfully so, because of the person Roger was,” Bach said.
Don Tinder, a longtime friend of Bryden’s who hunted with him, said Roger had a heart of gold. If someone needed financial help he was quick to lend a hand.
“He kept it very quiet and didn’t expect anything for it. It was just Roger. He was fortunate he was able to help and he believed that he should,” Tinder said. “Roger helped so many people that so many never knew about.”
Welcome Home Interiors owner Mike Meyers said Bryden was a very kind man, a phenomenal family man and would talk to everyone.
“I used to stop in and talk to him in the mornings. He never had a bad word to say about anyone. He loved Beloit,” Meyers said.
Overflowing Cup Pastor Dave Fogderud said Bryden was a generous man who had a soft spot for his ministry. He donated the old granary building to the Overflowing Cup in 2010.
“He’s was a very kind, generous and compassionate man,” he said.
Fogderud said there were a lot of people Bryden helped behind the scenes, when he would try to give those down on their luck some work opportunities. He was humble and could always relate to others, going the extra mile to help, Fogderud said, adding Bryden demonstrated his spiritual life with how he treated people.
(Funeral arrangements are pending at Daley Murphy Wisch, 2355 Cranston Road, Beloit.)