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July 2, 2014

Longtime business owner Don Dacus dies

JACKSONVILLE — In 1968, Don Dacus moved his family to Jacksonville, leaving behind a job at the Houston Veterans Administration Hospital to take a leap into the unknown: Building and selling boats.

“He didn't know the boat business at all, but had an opportunity to buy the business,” better known as Galaxie Boat Works, said his son, Kent.

“He went from building just one little old model of a boat, a 15-foot outboard boat, and we built and built and built. We must've had about 10 different models by the time we closed in 2008, ranging up to a 30-foot boat,” he recalled.

The elder Dacus, 83, died June 30 in Jacksonville.

He was born in Grice, just outside Gilmer, in Upshur County, but was raised in Marshall,

Kent said.

“My dad was very athletic – he played football, baseball, basketball, and he was a golfer (who) won tournaments at Holly Tree (Country Club in Tyler) for quite a few years,” he said. “I think if he had put his mind to it, he would have been a professional golfer.”

Instead, Don attended college in Louisiana and eventually – after working as a coach, among other things – began working as a physical therapist for the Houston VA.

Then the opportunity in Jacksonville presented itself.

“There were some guys who had a mold for a particular boat model, but they had another business that was doing good, and they had no time” to pursue the venture themselves, so they sold that business, Kent said. “I had just finished seventh grade in Houston when we moved here. Looking back, (the move) was the best thing that ever happened.”

Through the years, Galaxie also begin building trailers for their products.

“That way, if a dealer was going to buy one of our boats, he could have the boat, the motor and the trailer all done,” Kent said.

The boat works plant closed in 2008 because of an ailing economy, according to a story posted February, 2009, on www.tradeonlytoday.com.

In its heyday, Galaxie employed 45-50 workers, more than double the amount when the doors finally closed, the site reported.

“I started this business 40 years ago, and this is the worst I've ever seen it,” Don Dacus said in that interview. “It's gotten harder and harder to sell boats. I decided that I just can't keep people to build boats when you can't sell them.”

His dad enjoyed being in the boat business, and both his sons – Kent and his brother, Greg – were involved as well.

Former Jacksonville Mayor Robert Haberle said “Mr. Dacus was known far and wide as a gentleman and manufacturer of superior boat products.

“He was a large part of the fabric of (the city's) industrial era, and he will be missed by those who knew and respected him,” Haberle said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the family.”

Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce president Peggy Renfro recalled the elder Dacus as being active in the Chamber and very involved in the community and economic development.

“He was always seeking progress for the community – economic development was very important to him,” she said. “I remember, too, that we would have brochures to market tourism in Jacksonville, and he would have his boats out on the lake so we could utilize pictures of them in those brochures. He was always very helpful.”

Kent said he hopes that, above all, people remember his father as “a man of his word.”

“If he told you something, he was going to do it,” he said. “He was a man of his word … he didn't tell us a lot of things, but we learned from his actions.”

Dacus is survived by Harriett Dacus, his wife of 61 years, as well as his two sons.

Visitation for Don Dacus begins at 10 a.m. today at Central Baptist Church in Jacksonville, followed by 11 a.m. services.

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