Calvin Coolidge "Cal" Worthington, the charismatic car dealer and war hero made famous on the West Coast and in Alaska by his offbeat television commercials, died Sunday at his California ranch.
Worthington was 92. He died suddenly while watching TV football with family, according to their Sacramento attorney, Larry Miles. A cause of death is not yet known.
Worthington, a recipient of the Distinguished Flying Cross for his service during World War II, at one point operated more than 23 dealerships in five states. More recently, Worthington Ford operated three dealerships in Anchorage and one in Long Beach, Calif.
But it was those commercials -- and the hard-to-forget "Go See Cal!" refrain -- that made Worthington a household name starting in the early 1970s.
"Cal Worthington and his dog, Spot!" they'd start. Then along came Worthington with anything but a dog. He'd ride an elephant or killer whale, once even a hippopotamus. He'd walk bears or tigers on leashes. A chimpanzee made frequent appearances, wearing a duplicate of Worthington's trademark cowboy hat.
1921 - 2013
... He was in Alaska about 10 days ago, fishing and visiting his stores. The Worthington family owns three dealerships in Anchorage: Cal Worthington Ford Lincoln on Gambell Street, Mercedes-Benz of Anchorage on East Sixth Avenue and Cal's Park & Sell on East Dowling Road.
Worthington discovered his car-selling skills after the war. He sold his used vehicle to another veteran in Texas for $500, the story goes.
He leased a dirt lot in Texas to sell used cars, became a millionaire by 30 and built an empire of dozens of auto dealerships and land holdings, including ranches in California, Nevada and Idaho, according to a report in the Sacramento Bee.
Worthington's Big W Ranch in Orland is one of the largest producers of almonds and olives in California, Miles said.
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