Berge “Duke” Tookman, former vice president and
general manager of Tony LaRiche Chevrolet in Willoughby Hills, Ohio, and
past AFLA president, passed away January 21, in Cleveland.
Berge Garen Tookman, known as "Duke", passed away on Jan. 21, 2004 in Cleveland. He was 77. Tookman started his automotive career in 1949 with Southeast Chevrolet, a Cleveland dealership owned by Tony LaRiche. He became general sales manager of Southeast Chevrolet at the age of 22.
The dealership was later relocated to Willoughby Hills, OH, and renamed Tony LaRiche Chevrolet. In 1966, Tookman worked as executive vice president of Chevway Corp., a national leasing and rental system of Chevrolet dealers in Chicago, of which LaRiche was affiliated. Following a stint at Chevway, Tookman returned to Tony LaRiche Chevrolet. He worked for the dealership for more than 40 years and rose to the position of vice president and general manager. Also, while at Tony LaRiche Chevrolet, he managed Fleetway Systems, the dealer's fleet leasing company.
In addition, Tookman was elected president of the Automotive Fleet & Leasing Association (AFLA), serving from 1977-1978 and won the Bob McGarvey Award in 1988. Prior to working in the automotive retail business, Tookman sold automotive advertising space for the Cleveland Plain Dealer newspaper. He also served in the U.S. Navy from 1944-45 and earned his wings as a naval aviator.
Tookman was known in the industry by his nickname "Duke," which he acquired as a jazz musican playing the bass fiddle. Tookman called his fiddle "duchess" from which his nickname Duke arose. Tookman retired in 1989 and moved with his wife PC to Las Vegas. He and his wife returned to Cleveland in 2000 to honor his wife's wishes to be near her family during her illness with cancer.
Tookman is survived by his daughter Leigh Walton, his son Berge Garen Tookman, Jr., his stepson Mitchell Clark, and brother Ned H. Tookman.