Kenneth Day Garff, who backed up more than 65 years as an auto dealer with a reputation as a philanthropist and first-class Utahn, died Friday at his home. He was 90.
Mr. Garff, born July 18, 1906, to Royal Brigham and Rachel Day Garff, grew up in Draper, Logan and Salt Lake City. His entrepreneurial spirit was seeded as a boy.As a second-grader, Mr. Garff and his brother Royal used a red wagon to deliver groceries from the family's Logan store to customers. As a teen, Mr. Garff spent summers helping with the harvest at the Day Farm in Draper and accompanying his father to the Farmers Market held at Pioneer Park.
After serving an LDS mission in England, Mr. Garff returned to Utah in 1928 and enrolled at the University of Utah.
In 1929 he took a summer job selling woolen clothing for the Cache Valley Knitting Works of Logan. That job helped Mr. Garff refine salesmanship skills that would serve him well in the auto business.
Mr. Garff sold the vehicle he'd used as a traveling salesman at the end of the summer, collecting a $50 profit.
It was his experience running a Shell service station, which Mr. Garff undertook in 1931 to finance his college studies, that launched his career as an auto dealer. To supplement his income, Mr. Garff bought, fixed up and sold used cars.
Mr. Garff quit the venture and used the proceeds to start a used automobile business in 1931, the same year he graduated from the U. with a bachelor's degree in business.
In 1937 he obtained the intermountain distributorship for Studebaker cars and trucks and in 1946 he acquired an Oldsmobile dealership and eventually owned numerous automobile franchises as well as a mobile home dealership.
"To me, Ken Garff has epitomized how car dealers ought to be as dealers, businessmen and corporate citizens," said Larry H. Miller, another of Utah's well-known auto dealers. "He set such a good example in an industry that doesn't have the best reputation."
Mr. Garff also was an owner in Deseret Livestock Co. and a partner in Skull Valley Ranches.
He also served 25 years as a director of First Security Corp. Mr. Garff served as president of many organizations, including the Utah Automobile Dealers Association, Fidelity American Life Insurance Co. and the Salt Lake Country Club.
He was a member of the U.'s National Advisory Council and Business School Advisory Committee.
Mr. Garff remained a lifelong friend of the U. In 1961 he received an "outstanding achievement" award from the College of Business; in 1972 an Emeritus Award; in 1979 a Distinguished Alumnus Award; and in 1989 an honorary law degree.
He shared his success with the school by establishing a $500,000 professorial chair at the U. Graduate College of Business in 1978. The east wing of the college's business facility is named the Kendall D. Garff Building in his honor.
"Not only his example of business leadership, but his personal commitment to excellence at the school has made education here a brighter reality for all of our students. We will miss his spirit, humor and grace," said John Seybolt, dean of the David Eccles School of Business at the University of Utah.
Mr. Garff was an active member of the Republican Party and served as national party chairman in Utah for two decades.
Funeral services for Mr. Garff have not been announced.