September 2001

The Three Careers of P.J. Hunt, Jr.


by Joseph RADDER

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Percy J. Hunt, Jr. has actually had three careers since graduating from Hobart College in 1941.

Most recently, his career has been in public service. Currently he is a board member of Coordinated Care, the non-profit agency dedicated to serving the needs of seniors. Coordinated Care is a referral service agency that connects seniors with the information and services they need.

Prior to Coordinated Care, P.J., as he prefers to be called, was involved in fund-raising for organizations such as Beechwood Continuing Care, the Buffalo Hearing & Speech Center, Niagara Falls Memorial Hospital, the SPCA, People Inc. and several Chautauqua County non-profit organizations.

In 1981 Hunt joined EPIC. At that time the acronym stood for Effective Parenting Information for Children. Today it stands for Every Person Influences Children. He soon became a board member and eventually became board chairman of EPIC.

His first career, in the family automobile business, “Hunt” for Chevrolet, dominated most of P.J.’s life. He started at the Chevrolet store early, working in the service department during summer vacations. After college he became parts department manager and then, after a stint in sales, used car manager. “My father believed in giving us a well-rounded background in all facets of the business,” he said.

His automotive life was interrupted by his second career in the Marine Corps during World War II, when he and his three brothers all entered the service. His brother, Reed was in the Navy and served in Jack Kennedy’s PT Boat squadron.

P.J.’s brother Richard graduated from Yale and went to naval officers training. He served as a naval officer on a destroyer in the North Atlantic. After the war he was a reporter for the Geneva Daily Times, then the New York Times, then went on to NBC & PBS.

When P.J. was a senior in college the Marine Corps sent a recruiting team to the Hobart campus and they told him he could go into officers’ training if he signed up immediately. Of course he did. And he went on active duty at Quantico Virginia on February 1, 1942. Later that year he graduated from officers’ school as a second lieutenant and married Ruth Henry from New Jersey.

His Marine Corps career took him to New Caledonia, Gaudalcanal and Okinawa and he achieved the rank of Major as the war ended in 1945. P.J. points proudly to a photograph in his home of his entire family in uniform, even his father, Percy, who joined the Coast Guard Reserve and served as a Commander on Great Lakes patrol duty.

After the war, Hunt returned to Buffalo to continue in the automobile business. And after his father retired, he and his brother, Bob, became partners in operating the Delaware Avenue dealership.

Even though there was a severe shortage of cars then, Hunt had brand new ‘42s to sell until the ‘46s were available. You see, at the beginning of the war, P.J.’s father prudently acquired 250 1942 Chevrolets and warehoused them in the old Pierce Arrow plant. Throughout the war he rationed out these cars to his good customers.

In other words, the Hunt brothers inherited a successful going business. In 1977 when P.J. was Chairman of the Board of the New York State Auto Dealers Association, they were awarded the Time Magazine Quality Dealer Award. He sold the dealership in 1981.

P.J. and Ruth Hunt are very proud of their three daughters...Pamela, Barbara and Marcia, who are pursuing successful careers in Nashville, Tennessee, Camden, Maine and Boston, Massachusetts.

Hunt feels like a native Buffalonian, even though he was born in Okaloosa, Iowa. He moved here with his family at age eight from Streater, Illinois, where his father had been a Ford distributor.

As a youth he loved sailing at the Buffalo Canoe Club and the Youngstown Yacht Club. He gave up sailing in 1947 and joined the Buffalo Country Club. “I didn’t want to leave Ruth and the children while I sailed all over Lake Ontario,” he said.

As an avid golfer he was chairman of the Buffalo District Golf Association. In this position he was in charge of numerous tournaments. He was also on the board of the New York State Golf Association.

Yes, P.J. Hunt has had three successful careers since college...the automobile business, the Marines and now public service activities that keep him very busy. Unlike many retirees who spend hours daily in front of the TV set, Hunt says, “I watch TV only about 30 minutes a day.” The rest of the time he’s busy in the service of others.

Indeed, like so many of the great people who have been featured on these Forever Young and Active pages, P.J. Hunt is a valuable Western New York asset.



Joseph Radder is a freelance writer.

 

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