Doonan Peterbilt founder passes

Jason Cannon

April 29, 2014

Wendell M. Doonan, founder of Great Bend, Kan.-based Doonan Truck & Equipment and Doonan Peterbilt, passed away Sunday, April 27 in Arizona. He was 91.

Doonan founded Doonan Truck and Equipment, which sold farm equipment, in the late 1040s and first venture into automotive sales came in 1955 when he started a GMC dealership in Great Bend. He signed on to add a Peterbilt store in 1964 in the same town and 12 months later would add another one. 

obits_lgp_doonanpic“With the signing of the (Peterbilt) contract, he had to agree to put a facility in Wichita, which he did in 1965,” says Kenny Doonan, who now owns and operates the dealerships.

The elder Doonan retired roughly 15 years ago to Arizona where Kenny says his father played just as hard as he worked.

“He loved the weather and enjoyed riding his four-wheeler in the Colorado mountains,” he says. “He knew all the trails. He never got out a map. He just had this knack of finding his way around.”

Wendell Doonan sold the truck dealerships in 2004, but Kenny – who began working for his father in 1992 – was given the opportunity to buy them back roughly three years later, bringing full-circle a family business that was nearing 50 years old.

“I started driving trucks at 15,” he says. “…bringing a stack of trucks back home. I went through four years of college and always came home and worked the weekends doing something.”

Funeral services will be at 10:30 a.m. on Friday at the First United Methodist Church in Great Bend with the Reverend Judy Stricker officiating.

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