1 May 2012

Route 66 Retro Road Trip: Meeting the Hays family

At Hagerty, we do what we do because we love cars and trucks and just about everything else that has anything to do with automobiles and automotive history. And we’ve seen some pretty cool stuff through the years. But when it comes right down to it, it’s the people we remember most.

We were reminded of that again today when we met Terry Hays and her family at New Mexico Veterans’ Memorial Park in Albuquerque. Hays’ husband, Army National Guard Cpt. Bruce Hays, was killed in Afghanistan in 2008. Cpt. Hays went out of his way to care for the men under his command and was an enthusiastic advocate for military families. So too is Terry. She drove 3½ hours from Las Cruces, N.M., to Albuquerque to share her husband’s story, along with her daugthers, Bethany and Eleanor; her husband’s parents, Leonard and Barbara Hays; and family friend Scott Schwer, who has become something of a caretaker for the pickup truck that sparked our meeting.

Several years before Cpt. Hays was killed, he bought a beat-up 1959 Chevrolet Apache as an anniversary gift for his wife, who has fond memories of the Apache that her father owned when she was a kid. Bruce and Terry planned to restore the truck together, but as often happens, life had other plans. When the story of Bruce’s death began to spread, friends and complete strangers worked together to help Cpt. Hays give one final gift to his wife and family by restoring the Apache.

The gorgeous pickup – dark blue with yellow accents (like Army dress pants) and “God Bless America” painted on the spare tire cover – is an appropriate way to honor Cpt. Hays and bring attention to the reality of military life. And Terry Hays is eager to tell the story to all who will listen. We not only listened, we were touched in a very big way. You can read more by clicking here. And stay tuned for a video documenting our meeting.

What an honor it was to get to know the Hays family and hear their touching story. We left wishing we had met Cpt. Hays ourselves. On second thought, it feels like we did.

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