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Morning Sun
  • PATRICK'S PEOPLE: 'Impossible Dream Come True'

  • Bill Smith, who owns and operates Alber’s Marina with wife Rose Ann Smith, kept putting off restoring the 1968 Camaro he had purchased 12  years earlier. That dream could wait until later.

    And then, back in September, he realized that it just might be later than he thought it was.

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  • Bill Smith, who owns and operates Alber’s Marina with wife Rose Ann Smith, kept putting off restoring the 1968 Camaro he had purchased 12  years earlier. That dream could wait until later.
    And then, back in September, he realized that it just might be later than he thought it was.
    “In September, I knew I had a problem,” Smith said. “I lost a lot of weight, felt rundown and was looking jaundiced. I went to the doctor, they took blood and it was fine for the most part. Then they did a sonogram, and I was diagnosed with liver cancer.”
    The couple began talking on their way home.
    “He said, ‘I’ll never get to ride in that car’,” Mrs. Smith said.
    She decided to do what she could to make her husband’s dream come true, but wasn’t sure just how to go about it. Finally, she did exactly the right thing.
    “I called Tony Simon of the Rollin’ Nostalgia Car Club,” Mrs. Smith said.  “Tony said, ‘Let me come out’.”
    When Simon saw the car, he realized he’d seen it before.
    “I had seen it in pieces, all covered up in cardboard boxes and fish on plaques,” he said.
    Furthermore, it  was on a lift.
    “And the lift was broke,” added Mike Sand, another Rollin’ Nostalgia member.
    Smith said he had purchased the car in Mulberry and was actually able to drive it home that night.
    “Then I put it on a lift and it sat there and sat there for 12 years,” Smith said.
    However, within a couple of days car club members got the car off the lift and transported it to Sand’s house.
    “We took the front end off  the car and took it to Ira Reiken, and he and Jack Alvested worked on it,” Sand said.
    Other club members working on the project were Jim Steele, John Newbery, Brad Hill, Larry Reese, Jack Simone, Bob Romine, Larry Adamson, Warren Rhuems, Dave Case, Lyle Telfer and Gaylord Hoffman.
    “We had people working from men in their 70s to age 9,” Sand said.
    The 9-year-old, Ethan Henry, is the grandson of a club member.
    “He came by to work and he worked,” Sand said. “He’s a car guy.”
    Several non-club members also helped, and numerous vendors donated parts and/or labor. Included were Jake Grilz, Ed Craddock, Larry Zerngast, Steve Simon, Stan Hind, Sharp’s Auto, O’Reilly Auto Parts, Neptune Radiator, King’s Automotive, Saia’s Auto Body, End of the Road Garage, Holland Alignment  and Oz Upholstery. John Munger, now retired, allowed the group to use his old  auto shop for some of  the work.
    Page 2 of 2 - Smith also tried to help when he could.
    “I didn’t get to help as much as I would have liked because it happened during my really bad time,” he said. “But we’d go out there faithfully and watch.”
    He has been undergoing chemotherapy, and his wife hopes that he may be able to get onto a liver transplant list.
    Simon admitted that he had his doubts in the beginning about taking on such a big project.
    Sand, in fact, declined when Simon first tried to recruit him for the project.
    “I was trying to finish my own car, I had two more cars lined up after that, and I’d done enough Camaros,” Sand said.
    “Then he called back and said he could finish his car any time,” Simon said.
    What had changed his mind, what all the volunteers felt, was a kinship with a fellow car guy.
    “We could all relate when Bill said he’d never be able to drive that car,” Sand said.
    Working together on the project was a good experience for all involved,” he added. “We got to be better friends and met some new friends,” Sand said. “I doubt we’ll do another project like this, but I’m sure glad we did this one.
    The  Camaro restoration took 120 days. The gleaming silver Camaro, with a black stripe, was presented to Smith Saturday during Rollin’ Nostalgia’s first cruise night of the season.
    “Now we’re ready to put some miles on it,” Smith said. “These are a great group of guys and I can never repay them, but I’ll do my best.”
    He and his wife are treating the volunteers to a chicken dinner on Sunday, and Mrs. Smith has had plaques made up.
    “We want to thank them for making an impossible dream come true,” she said.
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