The Journal Gazette
Saturday, December 24, 2016 10:11 pm

Car wash co-founder remembered for faith

Sherry Slater | The Journal Gazette

Ed Dahm was a devoted family man, dedicated businessman and devout Catholic.

That’s the way his brothers, Mike and Joe, will remember him.

"He enjoyed being with people, and he loved helping people," Mike Dahm said of his older brother, who sometimes shared his faith with students at St. Jude Catholic School. "He would tell them, ‘Jesus is your best friend.’ "

Edward M. Dahm, 86-year-old co-founder of Mike’s Carwash, died Thursday. The cause of death has been ruled natural causes by the Whitley County coroner, who examined the body because Dahm was involved in a head-on crash with a bus north of Churubusco on Thursday.

Dahm’s death was the result of a medical issue, indicating he died before the crash occurred, Coroner Randy Dellinger said. Had the cause of death been the crash itself, the death would have been ruled accidental.

Witnesses said that before the crash, Dahm’s SUV suddenly accelerated and drifted onto the left side of the road and into the path of the bus, which tried to stop but couldn’t avoid the crash.

The Rev. Jake Runyon, pastor of St. Jude parish, described Ed Dahm as "a really good man."

"He had a lot of faith. He was really active here," the priest said. "He was at Mass almost every day."

Mike Dahm described his brother’s death as devastating for the family, which includes Ed Dahm’s five children with Linda Dahm, who died in June 2014.

"He’s up there in heaven with Linda," Joe Dahm said Friday.

Ed and Joe Dahm founded Mike’s Minit Man Carwash in 1948 in Fort Wayne. They named it after their younger brother because they liked the alliteration. Rather than join his brothers in business, however, Mike Dahm pursued a career in commercial real estate. He is a senior broker with Bradley Co., formerly NAI Harding Dahm.

The carwash company kept growing and evolved from offering full to express service. In 2012, the company washed its 100 millionth vehicle.

The founders stepped down in 1993, turning the company over to Ed's son Jerry and Joe’s sons Bill and Mike Dahm. In late 2014, they worked with a consultant to peacefully divide the company in two so they can more easily pass it down to their children, who will be third-generation owners.

The younger Mike Dahm is CEO of a revised, smaller Mike’s Carwash with locations in Fort Wayne, South Bend, Evansville and Cincinnati. Bill Dahm is CEO of Crew Carwash with locations in the Indianapolis area.

Mike’s Carwash built its reputation on courteous service and clean stores. The founders believed that treating employees well would inspire them to treat customers well. The owners recognize outstanding workers every year and host employee appreciation banquets complete with food, fun and prizes.

More than 100 former Mike’s employees returned last year for a reunion in New Haven, where they reminisced about how the lessons they learned in the carwash business have helped them succeed in various careers.

"No matter what business you’re in, we’re all in the people business," Joe Dahm said.

Although Ed Dahm might be widely remembered for his business success, his real loves were family and faith, his brothers said. 

As a member of St. Jude Catholic Church, Ed Dahm helped start the church’s Perpetual Eucharistic Exposition Chapel in 1984. St. Jude is the only parish in northern Indiana that observes perpetual adoration 24 hours a day, seven days a week, according to the church’s website.

Ed Dahm helped start more than 20 similar chapels in the state, Mike Dahm said. He believes that’s the work his brother would most like to be remembered for.

"We were so blessed. We had great parents. We had strong faith," Mike Dahm said.

Joe Dahm agreed.

"God’s been good to all of us," he said. "When he does that, you have to give back to others."

Frank Gray of The Journal Gazette contributed to this story.

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