Utah auto dealer Nate Wade, co-founder of nation’s oldest Subaru dealership, dies at 91

(Photo courtesy Nate Wade Subaru) Nate Wade, a Salt Lake City auto dealer for decades and co-founder of Nate Wade Subaru, died Saturday, Aug. 24, 2019, at the age of 91.

Nate Wade, a Salt Lake City auto dealer whose name has adorned “America’s oldest Subaru dealership” for 45 years, died Saturday at the age of 91.

Wade sold his first automobile when he was 16, borrowing money from his dad to buy a car, then shining it up and turning it around for a profit, according to an obituary written by his family and published Sunday in Salt Lake City newspapers.

He balked at the corporate car business at first, because he would have to shave and wear a tie every day. He got his first job with a car dealer in 1953, and in 1956 started working at Ballard Motors — where he first worked with M. Russell Ballard, now an apostle of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Wade and Ballard operated Ballard Wade Motors, a used-car dealership, for several years. In 1968, they acquired one of the first Subaru dealerships in the country. When Ballard was called to be president of the church’s mission in Toronto in 1974, Wade bought out his partner’s share of the dealership and renamed it Nate Wade Subaru — the name it carries today.

According to the company website, Wade maintained an office at the dealership for many years after his retirement in 1996.

The Subaru dealership remains a family affair. Wade’s son-in-law, Kirk Schneider, is president and CEO. Two of Wade’s granddaughters, and two grandsons-in-law, also work there.

The dealership issued a statement Monday that said: “Nate Wade started an amazing legacy when he acquired the Subaru franchise and turned Ballard Wade Motors into Nate Wade Subaru over 50 years ago. We at Nate Wade Subaru plan to continue his legacy of optimism and passion that he brought into the car business. Nate was a dear leader and friend to all he came in contact with and he will be greatly missed.”

Nate Wade was born April 15, 1929 — tax day, “the worst day of the year,” as the family put it — in Salt Lake City. He graduated from South High School, attended the University of Utah, and enlisted in the U.S. Air Force, serving in San Antonio, Texas.

Cars weren’t Wade’s only love as a teen, the family obituary said. That interest was outranked by basketball — he was star of his all-church team in the Edgehill Ward on 1500 East — and girls.

His longtime girlfriend, Bonnie Weston, moved to San Antonio to be with him for three years during his Air Force stint, before they moved back to Salt Lake City. They were married in the Salt Lake Temple on Nov. 1, 1951, and remained together for nearly 68 years.

Wade is survived by his wife, Bonnie; by daughters Nata Schneider (Kirk) and Wendy Leishman (Kyle); seven grandchildren; two great-grandchildren; and his brother, David. Wade’s parents, Nathan and Leone Wade, and his sister, Shirlene Burnett, died previously.

A visitation is set for Tuesday, Sept. 3, from 6 to 8 p.m., at Larkin Sunset Lawn, 2350 E. 1300 South, Salt Lake City. Funeral services will take place on Wednesday, Sept. 4, at 11 a.m., at the Olympus Hills Meeting House, 4176 S. Adonis Dr., Salt Lake City, with visitation from 10 to 10:45 a.m. Interment will take place at Wasatch Lawn Memorial Park.