Stuart Powell, a longtime car dealer in Danville who was a major supporter of general aviation in Boyle County, died Saturday at Ephraim McDowell Regional Medical Center. He was 89.
“Stuart was a family and father figure to some, he was a mentor to many, and he was just a terrific gentleman to everyone,” said Danville Mayor Mike Perros.
Powell was chairman of the Danville-Boyle County Airport Board for 49 years, from 1968 to the present, and the airport outside Junction City was named for him.
His first job at age 15 was pumping aviation fuel and cleaning plane windshields. By 16, he became qualified to handle a Piper J-3 Cub, a classic one-engine plane built between 1937 and 1947. His first solo flight took off from the tiny airstrip that became Stuart Powell Field.
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Today corporate jets fly in and out of the airport, which serves clients not only in Boyle County but from surrounding counties as well. “Our little airport here is very, very active as a stopping-off and refueling point for a lot of jet aircraft,” Perros said.
Powell got his start in the car business at his father’s Chevrolet dealership in Perryville in Boyle County.
Later, in 1953, he went to Lancaster to manage the Chevrolet dealership owned by Mattingly-Rapier of Danville.
In 1960, Powell bought the Lancaster Ford dealership from two businessmen and rented the Richmond Street building from Judge Henry Cox. At that time, aside from the Chevrolet dealership, Lancaster had Oldsmobile and Dodge dealerships.
In the early 1970s, Powell started a Ford dealership in downtown Danville. In 1982, the Danville dealership moved to the U.S. 127 bypass. Powell’s daughter, Patti, is vice president and general manager of the Danville dealership, which sells Fords, Lincolns and Mazdas.
Last year Stuart Powell, a former mayor of Lancaster, announced plans to renovate the building in Lancaster where he operated the Ford dealership from 1960 to 1978.
The Richmond Street property will be a satellite operation of the Danville dealership. Work has been underway this summer to renovate the building.
It’s unusual for a car dealership to go back into a small town, especially one as small as Lancaster, which has a population of 3,800.
“The world turns in one direction and I go the other way,” Powell told the Herald-Leader at the time. “Sometimes I’m 180 degrees from common sense, but the Lord’s provided, and I still survived and I’m still here.”
Funeral arrangements are pending at Preston Pruitt Spurlin Funeral Home in Danville.