Known as an astute businessman, car dealer Michael F. O’Daniel Sr. also displayed a gentle spirit, quick wit and a love of storytelling, his son said.
O’Daniel, who died Wednesday at age 79 from Alzheimer’s disease, came to Omaha in 1958 from Evansville, Indiana. His family purchased the Oldsmobile dealership downtown that later moved to 78th and Dodge Streets, where it’s now O’Daniel Honda.
“If I could use one word to describe my dad it would be generous,” said Matt O’Daniel of Omaha. “He was generous with us kids. Generous with his employees throughout his career in a lot of ways, usually anonymously.”
Exploring a call to religious life, O’Daniel attended St. Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology in St. Meinrad, Indiana, for two years. He graduated from Reitz Memorial High School in Evansville in 1958.
With a year at Marquette University under his belt, O’Daniel transferred to Creighton University, where he earned a degree in business administration. He worked at the family auto dealership while serving six years in the Army Reserves.
“Through the years Mike’s role in the family business increased, and he became more involved in the auto dealership industry, serving as president of the Nebraska New Car Dealers Association for a term,” his family said in a statement. “Upon his father Bernard’s retirement, he purchased the dealership and ran it until his retirement.”
Mike met the love of his life, the former Barbara Heimrod, at an Aksarben Ball event. She was attending the University of Kansas in Lawrence. They married in 1966 and raised four children, including sons Matt and Mike Jr., who now own and operate O’Daniel Honda.
O’Daniel’s family said he had many hobbies and even more stories. Over the years he stayed busy with race horses, hunting, fishing and quarter horses and listening to country, bluegrass and blues music. He also enjoyed photography, ham radio, home brewing, gardening and spending time at the Lake of the Ozarks with his kids and grandkids.
In addition to his wife and sons, O’Daniel is survived by daughters Helen Reese of Kansas City, Missouri, and Aloise “Loycee” E. O’Daniel of Castle Rock, Colorado, and sisters Maureen Mangan of Omaha and Kevyne O’Daniel and Colleen Flanders, both of Phoenix.
Family will receive friends Monday from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., at the West Center Chapel, 7805 W. Center Road. A funeral Mass will be celebrated at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday in St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church, 14330 Eagle Run Drive.