'Santa’s helpers' restore lost love

Tri-City HeraldDecember 14, 2012 

The snow-white 1964 Mercury Monterey was a vision of loveliness—a thrill more memorable than catching sight of gifts under the Christmas tree. For the young boy, it was love at first sight.

“I fell in love with it!” Dan Felton, now 60, reminisced about his grandpa’s brand new car, one that sported cherry-red and white upholstery. “I’ve always been in love with that car.”

But like some first loves, the beautiful memory is often all that remains.

Through the years Dan longed for the Mercury—a chance to cruise in style. But when grandpa gave up his car keys, the classic car seemed to give up, too. Parked under a pine tree in Seattle, the beauty began to age. Even with a facelift later on, the old Merc continued to fall into disrepair.

Dan couldn’t help but mourn the loss of the beloved car and sometimes around the dinner table, he’d tell the tale to his wife and two sons; how he’d loved and lost, thanks to fate. From his grandpa on, the Mercury had been handed down to other members of his family—never Dan.

Still, some dreams are meant to come true—with a little help. Unknown to Dan and his wife, Sharon, their boys had been listening, heard the catch in their dad’s voice, felt his longing tug at their hearts.

Putting their heads together, Andy and Matt came up with a plan.

Their idea would take sacrifice, hard work and stealthy behavior. But the biggest challenge would be cruising under their parents’ radar. Problem was they were both college students working summers to pay half their tuition—and a mother who paid very close attention to their bank accounts.

Nevertheless, like crafty Santa’s helpers, the kids paid cash for the forlorn Mercury and began their covert project. For three years, the boys scrimped, saved and sneaked into town where they worked to restore the car hidden in a farmer friend’s storage building.

There were close calls, one that had them covering their tracks with a fib: they’d slipped into the Tri-Cities to work on Christmas presents at a buddy’s house, but their parents “had spoiled it now.” The truth be known, it really was a present—but a retirement gift for their dad and mom.

When the surprise was revealed recently in front of co-workers and friends, Dan and Sharon were stunned at seeing the gorgeous Mercury Monterey restored to its former beauty.

Dan also admits . . . it was love at first sight—again.

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