Maureen LaFontaine of Highland Township, MI, matriarch of a metro Detroit auto empire, died Monday, Oct. 28.
She was 73.
LaFontaine was born on July 19, 1946, at New Grace Hospital in Detroit. She spent the majority of her childhood in Farmington, MI, the oldest of seven siblings, and attended Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic School.
She met her future husband, Mike LaFontaine, in eighth grade when she was 12 years old and her family recalls that she told him even then that they would start a family and spend all of life together.
The pair married Nov. 4, 1967, and had four children: Christie, Mike Jr., Kelley and Ryan. Maureen was a stay-at-home mother until her youngest was 6 years old, at which time she joined her husband in working at the automotive group the pair founded in 1980. She wanted to be prepared to run the business and support the family in the event anything should happen to him.
She sold cars for one year before taking over management of the group’s largest dealership in 1984.
LaFontaine includes 34 retail franchises, five collision centers and 15 Michigan locations and employs over 1,300 people, many of whom Maureen considered family and who referred to her as “madre.”
“She was determined to succeed in a male-dominated business and clearly she did,” her children said. “The Family Deal is our Madre without a doubt. The life lessons she taught us all daily through her life’s journey demonstrated the emphasis of family. It was through her actions, she created who we are today and what we strive to be. A philosophy that would only be alive through her passion, daily examples through her actions, and the heart of our company that is so generous and giving.”
The LaFontaines are well-known for their philanthropic efforts and have donated generously to many local causes and projects over the years.
Maureen was most proud of her family and besides her husband and four children, she leaves a legacy of 15 grandchildren.