Theo Oswald ``T.O.'' Haas, founder of T.O. Haas Tire Co. and a member of the Tire Industry Hall of Fame, died Dec. 1. He was 87.
Mr. Haas founded the dealership that bears his name in 1947 after leaving the Air Force, starting with only $1,500 worth of tires bought on credit. Within two years, he bought his first retreading facility and became a representative for O.K. Rubber Welders in Nebraska and northern Kansas.
Over the years, Mr. Haas expanded the business by aligning himself with TBC Corp., wholesaling and retailing private brand tires and batteries.
He retired from his company in 1978 and sold the dealership to his children. In May 2000, Heafner Tire Group Inc., which is now called American Tire Distributors Inc., acquired the company.
In October 2001, Mr. Haas's family bought back the retail division from Heafner, said Fred Knight, T.O. Haas Tire's marketing manager. The dealership's other divisions-wholesale distribution and retreading-remained with Heafner.
``He was thrilled,'' Mr. Knight said of Mr. Haas's reaction to the buyback.
The company now operates 29 retail locations in Nebraska, Kansas and Iowa.
But Mr. Haas was perhaps best known for his many community service efforts. In 1997, he received the Tire Dealer Humanitarian Award, presented annually by Tire Business, that recognizes a tire dealer or retreader in North America who is making a difference in his or her community through charitable and volunteer contributions.
His other awards included the Pioneer Award from Lincoln Public Schools and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Police Officers Association of Nebraska for a ``K-9 Cards for Kids'' program he pioneered.
The cards feature photos and statistics of law enforcement canines and are used in conjunction with the D.A.R.E. programs throughout the state. Mr. Haas also was named to the Lincoln High School Athletic Hall of Fame. In 2000, Mr. Haas was inducted into the Tire Industry Hall of Fame.
Mr. Haas is survived by his wife, Terry; sons, Randy, a part owner of T.O. Haas Tire, and Rick; daughter, Rebecca; daughter-in-law Sheri; son-in-law James Alan Williams Jr.; and seven grandchildren.