Entrepreneur Gus Machado arrived in the United States from Cuba when he was 15, received his education in America and became a renowned auto dealer and philanthropist who donated to 47 health care and charity organizations during his lifetime.
Machado, of Miami, was 87 when he died on May 16.
His widow Lilliam Machado survives him. She was his partner in giving and they are credited with more than $10 million in charitable gifts, especially to the American Cancer Society.
“When we lost Gus Machado, we lost a great human being, a great leader, a great family man and a great partner,” said Victor Benitez, Machado’s partner in the auto business. “But his legacy will remain with us for many years to come. And our job is to continue his legacy.”
In about 28 years, Machado grew his business from a small gas station and car export operation to buying dealerships and becoming the number one Ford dealer in Miami-Dade County. It was ranked 22nd among dealers nationwide, the company said.
In 1989, Machado’s enterprises were 11th among the top 500 Hispanic corporations in the country.
Ford recognized Machado in 2012 with its Salute to Dealers award for community service, and he was one of just six to be so honored.
He established the Gus Machado Senior PGA Classic tournament, co-founded the Calle Ocho street festival and founded the Gus Machado Classic Charity Golf Tournament to benefit the American Cancer Society, the company said.
“Over the years it’s got to be millions of dollars donated from the family and the golf tournament to the American Cancer Society,” Benitez said.
Machado also has held annual back-to-school fairs at his dealerships for 400 kids at a time who would receive backpacks, immunizations and ID cards.
Other survivors include adult children Myra Dewhurst and Lydia, Robert and Rudolph Machado; four grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
In 2015, he donated $5 million to St. Thomas University to build the Gus Machado College of Business, which opened in 2020.
The school said in several tweets that Machado’s death “was devastating ...” and called him “... the epitome of what the American Dream is all about. He was a phenomenal example for our students, and all of South Florida, for what one can do in this country if they are willing to dream and work to make that dream a reality. We love Gus and Lilliam.”
The Gus Machado Ford dealership in Hialeah, open since 1984, will continue operating, Benitez said. Other locations were sold in previous years, he said.