The secret to Bill Abbott’s success? “Work hard and hire the right people” | People


MONTICELLO – There is one thing Rick Ridings will remember from fellow car dealer Bill Abbott.

“Bill was a car guy. He loved the auto trade. And you have to love being around people, ”said Ridings, who bought his Monticello car dealership last year.

Mr Abbott, who had owned car dealership Bill Abbott Inc. in Monticello for 53 years until the 2020 sale, died last week at Kirby Medical Center. He was 84 years old.

In addition to his business and community service, the 1955 Mansfield High School graduate was a veteran of the United States Army.

As well as being a household name in Piatt County, he was a national name in the automotive industry, being nominated for Time magazine’s Dealer of the Year award in 2016. He was also a past president of the National Auto Dealers Association.

Ridings admired Mr Abbott for his business acumen and ability to withstand tough times, which in five decades included oil embargoes, 20% interest rates and the 2008 recession that claimed the lives of many car dealerships.

“He was a survivor,” Ridings said. “It was a tough time, and Bill not only survived it, but continued to operate for years afterward.”

And while there is no doubt that Mr. Abbott was a respected business leader, the director of the Monticello Chamber of Commerce, Shelly Crawford-Stock, will be remembered above all for his compassion and friendship.

“Bill’s warmth, humor and ability to talk to anyone is what I’ll remember him the most,” Crawford-Stock said. “You always knew where you were and he would tell you if he thought your perspective needed adjusting. Most of all, he loved his family.

Among that surviving family is his wife, Tam, whom Mr Abbott called “the best thing that ever happened to me”.

He began his long career in the automotive industry in 1958 as parts and service manager for Buck Buchanan in Monticello. He bought the dealership in 1967 and owned it for over five decades, selling it to Rick Ridings Inc. late last year.

In an interview last December after announcing the sale of his dealership, Abbott attributed the credit for his long tenure to his employees.

“Work hard and hire good people. I was lucky to have good people, ”he told the Piatt County Journal-Republican.

He worked hard in everything he did, whether in his role as longtime president of the Rotary Club of Monticello, or as an alumnus at the First Presbyterian Church in Monticello, where he attended for nearly 40 years old.

“He has served faithfully here in the church for decades,” said current church pastor Paul Spangler.

Mr. Abbott has also served on the Board of Directors of First State Bank and First State Bankcorp of Monticello, the Board of Directors of the Piatt County Farm Bureau, and the President’s Council and Alumni Association of the ‘University of Illinois.

He was a strong supporter of local schools, his company donating over $ 85,000 over the years, funding most of the scoreboards hung in gyms in Monticello. It was common for him to sponsor recreational baseball teams, and he also supported the Piatt County Traill Blazers Rodeo.

“I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to have spent so much of my life with Bill as a family friend and someone I admired,” Crawford-Stock said. “I was fortunate enough to be a Rotary table companion with him for many years.

“He will be missed, but his legacy continues in his family, whom he loved so much. “

Steve Hoffman is editor-in-chief of the Piatt County Journal-Republican, a newspaper of the Community Media Group. To learn more, visit

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