Friday, July 5, 2013

Fred and Kathy Stephens (and Freddy's incredible road trip)!

One day I walked into the Buck and Ear bar and grille in Steveston, my  regular Wednesday night solo gig and the first person I saw was Fred Stephens. Fred had just the week before told me he had lost his dearly beloved wife Kathy to a long and heroic battle with cancer. Fred and Kathy had spent 5 years together caring for and loving each other through this challenge and the story and his obvious love for her had always entranced me so I always had time to hear how things were going. Anyhow on this day I looked at Fred as I walked in and asked him how he was doing, he responded that he had just received an amazing phone call from a Ford dealership. They said; "hello sir, just wanted to let you know your truck  should arrive any day now...."

Fred: "Huh?  But I didn't order a truck"

Ford:  "Your wife did sir, she called me up and had me come to the hospital a short while ago and we specially ordered you a truck that she thought you would love."

                                                                 Fred and his new truck!

Well anyone who knows me would know this would reduce me to tears pretty quickly. What an amazing thing to do, what an amazing woman. No wonder he loved her so dearly. He told me that as soon as he got his truck he planned to do a tour of Route 66, something on the bucket list, and he was going to take Freddy the teddy bear with him, a bear that came into their lives when she learned of her cancer which held special meaning for them both. Freddy and Fred would travel together and take photos of Freddy in different places and at the end of the trip the bear was to be given to a young girl who was fighting cancer.  I asked Fred to send me the pictures when he completed the trip. He did, and the photos are wonderful......can you even imagine the impact of a big tough guy, carrying around a Teddy bear?

Well I can, and I can show you..... because this is what  happened...........................

Freddy, with picture of Fred and Kathy in the background.

Freddy and the new truck! 

Strapped in and ready to go! 

                               In Alberta, at Sister-in-laws farm with their  12 yr old Great Dane

Kathy's cousin and her daughter.

The next words in italics, are from Fred himself:

Here it is, Saturday May 18th.... 2 mths after Kathy's leaving us and the 5th Anniversary of her being Diagnosed with her Mesothelioma... guess it is "Freddy's" 5th Birthday. 

Just out for a drive, looking around for some possible commercial property to relocate a business to Winnipeg.
Driving around, with no plan... I see a sign blown down and figure it a for lease sign so I turn corner.... and find a Polar Bear.
This would be a great photo for Freddy. 
When I walk up after taking the picture, I then noticed the Pink Ribbon. My heart leaped and I felt a stir, a tear down my cheek. "Friggin Awesome". 

I take a moment then get in truck. Composing myself, I go to head back to main road then decide to turn around and look through the area. A left and a few blocks, I stop... not much to see... I go to turn left then suddenly I go right.. why? I don't know but within 200 yards, I see a HUGE pink cement-mixer. I screech to a stop and stare. 

My arm is covered in goose-bumps as I gaze over at it. Too cool! I see the driver and his daughter beside it having their photo's taken so with Freddy in my arm, I walk over. May I take a few photo's? 
Jason, the driver, says by all means please. It is a car show/fund-raiser for Cancer Care.

After walking around, I go to leave and I thank the organizers..."You can not leave yet" and then in pulls a Pink Fire truck.

It is autographed by Cancer survivors who have been through Cancer Care. 

The Captain, though being ribbed by the guys, holds Freddy.

Sunday, May 19th.... U.S. Customs decides I look to good. Upon entering my truck, I am asked why a Teddy-bear buckled in passenger seat. I then begin my story, with pictures of the last 2 weeks.
I can see these tough Custom's agents getting a lil shook up. "Your story is to sincere so off you go. "1 favor" I ask, "I know I can not take your photo but may I take 1 of Freddy somewhere?"

Into a holding area he goes, along with a fake ticket for not producing a pass-port.

This Sunday was the beginning of all those ugly storms throughout the Mid-West.After driving through a torrent of rain at 15 miles an hour for 2 hrs, my navigation told me to take a detour.....125 mile detour.

Finally, I decide to stop, get some fuel and a bite to eat. Upon entering the restaurant, I am greeted with ALL the staff wearing "Pink", It was Day #1 of their "Cancer Awareness" fundraiser. 

I didn't mention my touring around Florida while I waited for a money transfer for the 1955 Ford pick-up I was buying. I went to the Drag Racing Museum in Ocala, Florida. We wandered around for a few hours, taking Freddy'd pic along the way.

As I was getting into truck, I hear a voice "Now whats a big guy like you doing with a Teddy-Bear?"
I turn around and I am amazed...."Big Daddy" Don Garlits... 17 time NHRA Drag Racing World Champion.

Don and I chatted for almost an hour, him asking about Freddy, my trip and if I liked fishing. Don shared with me that his wife Pat is also fighting Cancer, along with a mild Alzheimers. Don invited us up to Bowling Green, Kentucky... as his guest for the 2nd week of June but I had to decline... but invited him to come here for some Salmon Fishing...

                                 This is the truck I went to Georgia for... because the original car I wanted was sold.

A trip to Florida.... if you love NASCAR, Mecca is Daytona International Speedway...The Earnhardt Memorial, The Winner's Circle and Michael Waltrip's hand prints.

Coming through Oklahoma, I was almost scooped up by a tornado.... time to go home.

I arrived home Sunday, June 2nd....tired and ready for my own pillow.

Monday a.m., I get a phone call... 1 of the counselor's from Kathy's school. If your back, come to Grad nice to hear your stories. So Freddy and I went...not aware that it was going to be very emotional. 

The kids did a presentation video... the first 4-5 mins on the 3 graduating students... then a 5 minute memorial on Kathy. Not a dry eye.

At the end, Murray was standing in front and announced that this years "Spirit Award" was going to someone who has touched everyone's heart. Usually, it is presented to a student but this year, a special lady is getting it. "Fred. please come up here"

I accepted the plaque for Kathy, and then took it to the entrance of the school and placed it on the wall, beside the credo for the school

So that's the incredible story of  Freddy's road trip and it tells the legacy left by a special woman who touched everyone she met, and even those who were not blessed to meet her. I will say it now and say it forever, I think Kathy's energy was on that trip backseat driving, directing Fred and Freddy to go where she wanted them to go and together they were sharing her message.

And I am very fortunate to have my job because I get to meet people who are out there making a difference and connecting with others and spreading good energy around. I feel honored that I was told this story and allowed to share it with you. Hopefully it will inspire you to make a difference in your own special way.

xoxoxo hearts and love to Kathy, your message of standing strong is still being heard, you are so very loved.

1 comment:

Fred Stephens said...

Thank You Rachael. Once again, my tears flow down my cheeks. You are amazing for writing our story.