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Volunteers restore car for a disabled veteran

LeMay Family Collection at Marymount offers facilities to help

Dennis Blowers shows the 1981 Chrysler Imperial which volunteers at the LeMay Family Collection at Marymount have been restoring. Photo credit: Marguerite Cleveland

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LeMay Docent and veteran Dennis Blowers is surrounded by vintage cars during his volunteer hours giving tours of the LeMay Family Collection at Marymount. He began to think about his fellow Vietnam veterans and decided to put a plan into action. Blowers wanted to donate a van to give to a disabled veteran, but after doing some research, he found out that there is more of a need for cars with hand controls.

"Many veterans from the Vietnam era tend to isolate themselves. I thought a classic car would be a great way for someone to go to car shows or participate in parades and interact more with society," said Blowers. The first step in his plan was to recruit Doug LeMay, the secretary/treasurer on the museum board. LeMay gave his permission to use maintenance facilities at the museum to help with the restoration.

LeMay volunteer Mike Ragan donated a 1981 Chrysler Imperial for the project. A former Dodge mechanic, Ragan loved the body style of the car. Seeing one on Craigslist, he hunted it down in Burien and found it under some trees. "It is the thrill of the hunt," said Ragan. Once he got the car back home, he had the opportunity to begin a project on another car and had one project too many, so he donated the car to help Blowers with his project.

Blowers raised money to pay for the restoration with Wishing Wells placed on the counter at the museum and near the car when it is displayed. Generous visitors to the museum contributed as well as friends of the volunteers. Most of the work was done at the restoration room on the Marymount campus. Kent Collision donated the use of their paint room and the donations helped pay for the paint.

Helping to restore the car was a work of love for him. "Ever since I was a kid I loved cars," said Blowers. He served as a mechanic for 20 years at a Dodge dealership, and like many of the volunteers at LeMay, he owns classic cars and motorcycles. That experience helped when it came to getting the Imperial ready to go. The car has a rebuilt starter, new brake pads and cylinders, and many other items too numerous to list. According to Blowers, "we started working on the car in August 2017. The majority of the time was spent in the restoration shop getting the dents out."  The volunteers have a few more things to touch up and then the car will be ready to donate.

Blowers is working with the Northwest Paralyzed Veterans of America to help with the paper work and to select a deserving disabled veteran. The car will be donated to the nonprofit which will then select a deserving veteran to present the car to.

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