For Bob Lyttle, the Battle Against Breast Cancer is Personal

May 4, 2012
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Car dealer learns about giving back to others from his family

By Michele J. Kuhn

KEYPORT – Bob Lyttle, owner of Tom’s Ford, is a firm believer in the need for mammograms and the spirit of generosity. For him, they are deeply personal.

Lyttle never really knew his mother because she died of breast cancer when he was 18 months. Subsequently, Lyttle’s uncle Tom adopted Bob and three of his siblings. His little sister, who was born shortly before his mother’s death, stayed with their father, a bartender in Yonkers, N.Y., who felt he couldn’t handle the responsibility of five young children.

The lessons of those early years have colored Lyttle’s life.

“I’ve always felt it pays to be generous,’’ he said. “My uncle, who had no children, didn’t have to adopt us.”

It is with that spirit of generosity and an intimate knowledge of what breast cancer can mean to people and their families, that Tom’s Ford is a fuchsia sponsor of the Paint the Town Pink campaign. “It’s a good cause,’’ he said.

“We believe in giving back to our community. We think it’s important to support the community that allows us to pay our bills,” said Lyttle, who added that Tom’s Ford is involved in two other charity ventures at the moment.

Paint the Town Pink was created with two goals: to encourage women, age 40 and older, to pledge to have their annual mammogram, and to raise funds to provide mammography to the uninsured and underserved in the community. The effort is spearheaded by Riverview Medical Center, Red Bank, with assistance from surrounding communities.

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Lyttle recalled that when his mother was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1956, detection and treatment were nowhere near where they are today. “In today’s world, she’d still be around,’’ he said.

When his mother was expecting his younger sister, his aunt noticed the lump in his mother’s breast. When his mother went to her doctor, she was told not to worry because that can happen to pregnant woman. The cancer, however, spread quickly to other organs.

Because Lyttle knows the importance of providing mammograms, he and his firm have strongly supported Paint the Town Pink since its inception six years ago. “We really feel we need to promote that it’s a treatable cancer with early detection,’’ Lyttle said.

Lyttle has been gratified by the response his agency’s support for the campaign has engendered. “We’ve had a lot of feedback and people appreciate that we support the cause,” he said.

Tom’s Ford, which serves Central New Jersey and parts of New York, was founded 50 years ago—on May 3, 1962—by Lyttle’s uncle and the anniversary will be celebrated by the dealership.

Originally located in Matawan, Tom Lyttle bought a bankrupt dealership and took it from one that was losing money to a profitable one.

“We continually find ways to improve the customer experience so that your automotive experience is professional and simple,” Lyttle said. “Our commitment to a quality customer experience is backed by countless awards.”

In 2011 alone, Tom’s Ford, which has a staff of 95, won three awards for customer service.

When Tom Lyttle opened the dealership, he knew it would be a challenge to win over customers in Matawan. The previous dealer was not trusted in the town, which at that time had only 600 residents. “The challenge was to build a reputation and that was done by building relationships in the community based on integrity, value, and respect.”

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In 1964 the dealership relocated to Highway 35 in Keyport. The Garden State Parkway was finished and intersected Routes 35 and 36, which offered Tom’s Ford a site with high visibility and more traffic.
Since then they have made several renovations and acquired adjoining properties to expand the operation. Last year a new showroom and customer lounge were completed, making the agency one of the first dealerships in the region to meet the new facility requirements established by The Ford Motor Co.

Tom’s Ford of Keyport offers a full selection of service areas including: new vehicle sales and leasing; pre-owned vehicle sales; car loans and financing; and a service department with certified technicians, as well as diesel-certified technicians who specialize in commercial truck service, and parts and accessories.

“In celebration of 50 great years in the automobile business, we extend our sincerest thanks to the thousands of customers we’ve had the pleasure to serve over the past five decades,” said Lyttle. “We look forward to the next 50 years.”

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