Ed Shoemaker spent 10 years in the auto business. Most of them were as a service adviser. All were at one dealership, Flemington Infiniti, in a New Jersey town of the same name.
And he left a mark. Just look at the comments posted on the Wright & Ford funeral home website following his death. At least two dozen came from the store's customers. They recalled his smile. His laughter. His professionalism. His infectious optimism.
Any self-respecting service adviser would be humbled to imagine something like this comment etched as an epithet to a career well spent:
"In a world where skepticism is the norm, I had such confidence in Ed's advice and recommendations that I even told my family members to trust whatever he recommended as I knew that his moral compass and ethical standards were beyond reproach."
Steve Kiley is the store's general manager. He got a call at 6:30 a.m. Dec. 1 with word that Shoemaker had died of a heart attack at 47.
The first customer who heard the news that morning, Kiley says, had to be held up to keep from collapsing to the floor.
Kiley decided then a better route to sharing the news was to email the dealership's clients. That generated an outpouring of calls and messages and expressions of condolence.
"He really did touch a lot of people," Kiley says.
Shoemaker was a locksmith before he entered the car business. It didn't take long for him to find the key to being a good service adviser.
What set him apart?
Ed Shoemaker knew cars, Kiley says. He appreciated cars. He loved the brand. He got along with co-workers. He was dedicated. He went out of his way to respond to customers quickly. He was civic-minded. He was genuinely a decent person. He was well-read on many subjects. And he could communicate with all sorts of people.
"He was able to explain exactly in terms that customers could understand, whether they were car savvy or not," Kiley says. "There was an art to that."
An art that was recognized far beyond Flemington. Just three months before he died, Shoemaker was named Infiniti's U.S. service adviser of the year.