Totally floored': Ronan woman given 1969 Ford Mustang she bought at 15 for her 50th birthday
By VINCE DEVLIN of the Missoulian
RONAN - Julie Moore was pretty sure her 50th birthday was going to slip by with little fanfare.
Her son Bill, an X-ray technician at Community Medical Center in Missoula, was scheduled to work, and her daughter, Jeri Rice, lives far away in Fayetteville, Ark., with husband Steve.
Besides, Julie and her husband Willard had been busy planning another celebration, the 30th anniversary of their purchase of Willard's, their downtown bar, for Friday. That was tempered by the death of a dear friend, longtime Ronan teacher William “Pat” Williams; the Moores served as ushers at his funeral last Saturday morning, then joined others at the Mission Mountain Country Club to hit golf balls on Williams' favorite hole in his memory.
Several of them retired to Willard's after that, and it was around 8:30 p.m. when Julie heard a familiar voice.
“Mom! Mom!” Bill Moore hollered as he entered Willard's. Julie turned; she was surprised to see her son.
And more stunned as the crowd parted and she saw who was with him: her own mother, Vivienne Hunter; her dad, Ron Hunter; her stepmother, Jewell Hunter.
Her brother Reed and his girlfriend, Ginny Cogswell, were there, too. Most shocking of all: Jeri and Steve had flown in from Arkansas to surprise her.
“With the bar's birthday and the passing of a friend, I thought I'd let my birthday kind of slide by this year,” Julie says. “There was no such luck with this crew.”
But the biggest surprise wasn't that they were all here.
It was what they brought with them.
Bill Moore blindfolded his mother, twirled her around and pushed her toward the back door of the bar.
Once outside, the blindfold was lifted and there in front of Julie was her birthday present: a red 1969 Ford Mustang fastback.
And not just any '69 Mustang fastback. It was the same Mustang Julie had purchased when she was 15 years old, back in 1973 when she was a sophomore at Sentinel High School, as her first car.
“I just about fainted,” Julie says. “I was totally floored.”
It was Bill Moore who found the Mustang, covered in pitch and sitting in disrepair under a pine tree in a Missoula backyard. He'd run into the man who bought it from his mother 10 years ago, and told the owner if he ever wanted to sell it, to give him first crack at it.
Julie's son, daughter and mother banded together to buy it back. Bill did much of the work over the winter to get it up and running again, but more family and friends came on board to help as time went on.
“I think maybe the biggest surprise of all is that so many people were able to keep it a secret for so long,” Julie says.
She wasn't suspicious when Bill called last year wanting his mom's Social Security and driver's license numbers. He told her it was so he could list her as a beneficiary on his 401(k) plan, but it was actually so he could fill out information to transfer the Mustang title back to her.
And the radar didn't click on at a recent family gathering, when the talk turned to who all was storing “stuff” at her brother Reed's home.
“At least I don't have any of my junk up there,” Julie told him.
By that time the Mustang, which Bill had been working on at a friend's shop in Potomac during the winter, was parked in Reed's shop as the family pitched in to get it finished.
“Are you sure about that?” Reed teased his sister. Bill shot his uncle a look: Don't you dare go there.
It was a mad flurry to get the car done, even after Bill had devoted months to the project, grinding heads, replacing struts and the exhaust system, putting in new brakes and more.
“The last two weeks we were up till 2:30 in the morning every night trying to get it finished,” Reed says. “We had to stop at a family member's home to get one of the last pieces (the hood scoop) and we bolted that on on the side of the highway.”
Even though Julie's birthday was actually Tuesday, they wanted to get the car to her over the weekend - when everyone could be there to join in the surprise.
So they hauled the car into Ronan at about 7:55 Saturday evening on a trailer behind Reed's pickup, and headed first to a car wash.
“Then we realized we hadn't brought any towels or washrags,” Reed says. Vivienne Hunter saved the day, donating her quilting fabric to wipe the water spots away.
The only other person as surprised as Julie was husband Willard.
“The kids really struggled over whether they should tell their dad,” Julie says. “He was never a big fan of the car. It's not a practical family car, it's not good in the snow, it's got a small trunk, and it steers tough - there's no power steering.”
But the reason she sold it 10 years ago after owning it for more than a quarter of a century, Julie says, is because Bill and Jeri both had cars by then and still lived at home, and the front of the house seemed littered with too many vehicles all the time.
She quickly regretted it.
“How many people do you hear say, ‘Gee, I wish I still had the first car I ever owned'?” Julie says. “I had mine for something like 26 years, and then I sold it. It was painful to get rid of it.”
There were just too many memories attached to the Mustang.
Back when she was 15 and a newly licensed driver, Julie had had her eye on a car with “suicide” doors; her dad steered her toward the Mustang, which he found on a car lot run by a friend.
She paid either $1,200 or $1,700 for it - she can't remember which - with money she had earned working after school and during the summers. (And sold it, in the 1990s, for $4,000. Her family, of course, won't tell her how much they paid to get it back, nor how much it has cost to get it running again.)
“Gas was 39 cents a gallon when I bought it,” Julie says. “You could find 50 cents in the ashtray and go all weekend. My girlfriend and I would take it to the drive-in, crawl in the backseat, kick the front seats forward and watch the movie. It's the car I drove to my high school graduation. It's the car that was decorated for my wedding. Many years later, it was the car my daughter used to learn how to drive a stick shift.”
When she climbed behind the wheel Saturday night to take it for a spin down Ronan's Main Street, Julie Moore says she was very nervous.
“There must have been 30 patrons plus all my family there,” she says. “I was shaking - but I didn't kill it!”
Julie says she'll drive the Mustang to her golf league every Tuesday for sure, tool around town in it some, and drive it in Ronan's annual Pioneer Days parade. But it will be a summer car this time around, and garaged during the winter.
Oh - and Willard's reaction when he saw the red Mustang - the one he'd never been that fond of - for the first time in a decade?
“It's baa-ack,” he said with a smile.
And this time, he's pretty sure, no “for sale” sign will ever be taped in a window again. Source: http://www.missoulian.com/articles/2009/06/04/news/top/news01.txt Super awesome birthday gift! Yiz