By Mary Thurwachter
BOCA RATON — Ed Morse, who built one of the most respected automobile dealer groups in the country, died of natural causes on June 29.
Mr. Morse, 91, began his automotive career in 1946. At the time of his death, Morse’s company had 15 locations in Florida. He and his son, Ted, served as co-chairmen.
Mr. Morse was born in 1921 and served as a navigator on a B-25 during World War II. When a pilot was wounded and co-pilot killed in a mission in the South Pacific, Mr. Morse helped fly the plane back to the base in New Guinea. That effort earned him the Distinguished Flying Cross, one of the country’s highest military honors and one of several military honors he received.
Back from war, Mr. Morse worked as a doorman at a Miami Beach hotel. Along with his father, Alex, he founded Morse Motors, a 20-car fleet rental company, in 1946. After the fleet grew to 20,000 cars, the company merged with National Car Rental and Mr. Morse became chief executive officer.
In 1961, he bought his first dealership, Morse Holland Ford in Miami. By 1968, he had built a solid relationship with General Motors and started Ed Morse Chevrolet in Lauderhill and Ed Morse Bayview Cadillac in Fort Lauderdale.
In the 1980s, eight more dealerships were added, followed by 20 more in the 1990s.
Mark Jones of Fort Lauderdale began working with Mr. Morse’s company as an apprentice in 1981.
“I had many opportunities to meet Mr. Morse,” Jones said. “His great business sense and motto to promote from within has left the organization with many dedicated, long-term employees.”
The Ed Morse Automotive Group has received numerous recognitions over the years, including being recognized as the World’s Largest Automotive Dealer by Automotive Age magazine and Largest Volume Chevrolet, Cadillac and Mazda Dealer by Automotive News.
He supported many charities, including the Muscular Dystrophy Association, for which his company has raised more than $1.3 million through the Ed Morse annual MDA golf tournament.
He is survived by his wife, Carol; son Ted (Patti) and daughter, Betty Anne Beaver (Dick); grandchildren Teddy Morse (Erica), Catherine Morse Martinez (Chris), Richard Danahy (Laura), and Brian Danahy (Jolie); five great-grandchildren; and two sisters, Nancy Stringer (Jack) and Pricilla Ropp.
Services for were held on July 6 at the FAU Auditorium. The family asks that donations in Mr. Morse’s name be sent to the Muscular Dystrophy Association and the Lupus Foundation of America.