TRAVERSE CITY — The world lost a great character on March 18, 2014. Frank Hagerty, 79, was born in Detroit on June 16, 1934, the only child of Frank and Evelyn Hagerty.
He attended Cooley High School and graduated from Michigan State University. He began by studying agriculture with the idea of becoming a cherry farmer in northern Michigan, but ended up with a degree in business, followed by an insurance career in Traverse City.
As a child he loved to go to Hudson’s with his mother and hide from her in the store, which forced her to put him on a leash. But even that didn’t contain him. On Sept. 10, 1955, he married Louise Kucera at Central Methodist Church ... and it had a longer effect.
Frank and Louise started their first insurance agency with Frank becoming an independent State Farm agent. Frank literally knocked on every door in Traverse City, and his determination brought them success. That business grew and was eventually sold in 1981, but Frank and Louise weren’t finished yet. In 1984 they dreamed up the idea of a specialty insurance program for classic wooden boats. The nationwide business they started out of the basement of their home became very successful and eventually spun off the now-predominant classic car program. Today, Hagerty is one of the largest employers in Traverse City and is the largest insurer of classic boats and cars in the world. While not active in the business for some time, many of Frank’s original ideas are still in play today.
Frank’s life could be metered out through his passion for cars and boats. He loved to work on them and collected all sorts of car and boat memorabilia. His first classic car was a 1956 Ford Thunderbird, which he bought from a junk yard for $225. The car remains in the family today. Frank’s unknowable string of wooden boats remains a mystery, but it is central to his 50-plus summers in northern Michigan. It was hard to tell whether he enjoyed cars or boats more, but he could fix anything and passed his love of cars and boats to many young people. The Hagerty garage on McKinley Road was the place to be for decades. Many cars were restored, many friendships cultivated and life was full of automotive adventures. This continued until very recently when he rediscovered a 1948 Ford Sleeping Bear Dunesmobile and brought it home to northern Michigan. Dune Car #9 took First Place in the Beach Car class at the 2014 Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance event in Florida on March 9. Frank rode in the car to the award platform and was surrounded by his family as he soaked in the moment.