The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

April 5, 2013

VIDEO: Community rallies to restore classic car for cancer patient

PITTSBURG, Kan. — For at least 12 years, as near as Bill Smith can remember, his 1968 Camaro had been covered in dust on a car lift three feet off the ground in his barn.

When Smith, 55, of rural Frontenac, Kan., was diagnosed last September with non-operable liver cancer, he returned home from the doctor with his wife, Roseanne, and expressed regret that he never got around to restoring it.

“I’ll probably never get to drive it now,” he told her.

It had no motor, no front fenders, and pieces were scattered about. After having purchased it on a whim from a Mulberry, Kan., man, Smith had driven the car home, started to work on it, but then life got in the way.

In 1996, Bill and Roseanne, both alums of Frontenac High School, took over Alber’s Marine, a new and used boat store started by her father in 1986. As business owners and parents, there was little time for the car. It continued to sit.

“When he said he’d never get to drive it again, that’s when I thought: ‘I’ve got to figure out something,’” Roseanne said.

She began making phone calls. Her requests to nationally televised car restoration programs didn’t pan out, so she turned to someone local.

“Roseanne called me and asked did I know of anyone who could work on it,” said Tony Simon, an Arma resident who by day works for Atkinson Industries, but in the evenings and on weekends tinkers with classic cars. His specialties include wiring and rebuilding engines.

“I told her it would cost $60,000 and may be too late if she had it done professionally. And no one person could do it, even if they were retired,” Simon said.

The fellow car enthusiast took matters into his own hands when Roseanne explained her husband’s diagnosis and his regret that he’d never get to drive it.

“We all can relate to that,” Simon said, choking on emotion.

John Newbery, another local classic car enthusiast who is retired from the Pittsburg (Kan.) Fire Department, signed on as the parts coordinator.

“We all tuned in to that real quick,” Newbery said of Smith’s regret.

Also jumping on board was Mike Sand, Newbery’s neighbor in rural Pittsburg. He has long been known in the local classic car world as a body man. Now retired after decades in the auto parts business, Sand spends his time restoring cars in his garage.

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