Nearly 90 years ago, factory workers who put the finishing touches on a 1928 Chevrolet Coupe couldn’t have known that it was destined to provide help for Mennonite Central Committee relief efforts not once, but twice, in two states.
Joyce Barkman of Hillsboro is the most recent owner of the olive-colored automotive gem, and she has donated it for auction at next week’s MCC Relief Sale in Hutchinson.
But Barkman wouldn’t have had the car if not for an old high school classmate and another MCC auction, both in California, 20 years ago.
Betsy Funk, Barkman’s classmate, and her husband, Chester, a Reedley, California concrete contractor, attended an MCC relief sale in 1997 in Fresno, California. That’s where Chester set his sights on the Chevy Coupe.
Betsy had left the auction briefly, and said that when she returned she heard the auctioneer call out, “Congratulations to the guy in the cowboy hat!”
Chester was the only one in the audience wearing a cowboy hat.
“I said, ‘Did you buy that car?’” Betsy said, and the answer was yes.
Jerry Koop handled the cars for the auction.
“The man that donated it to us was William Goertzen, who is since deceased,” he said. “He was a real friend of the sale. He had a passion for restoring cars. He was just a good tinkerer and made things mechanically sound.”
Years later, when Barkman was visiting the Funks in 2007, Chester suggested she should have the car.
“He’d tease her about it, ‘Joyce, buy this,’” Betsy said.
The idea took.
“It was only a couple of months later,” Barkman said. “Chester said, ‘I don’t want to sell it to these people in California; they’ll just make a street rod out of it.’”
The Funks loaded the car onto a truck and headed east.
“The Mojave Desert was hot,” Betsy said. “I think we ruined three tires. It was 115 degrees.”
However, they made it to Hillsboro, and for the past 10 years, Barkman and her family have enjoyed the old Chevy.
“I always wanted to have an old car,” Barkman said. “We’ve had a lot of fun with it, mainly just on my yard because it was in such nice shape.”
Recently, Barkman decided to downsize her belongings, and that’s when she contacted Jerry Toews of Goessel about donating the car to the relief sale.
“I support a lot of missions, and when I called Jerry he said ‘That’s an answer to a prayer; I didn’t have an old car this year.’ People know it’s going to missions, so maybe it will bring a little bit more.”
The Chevy is just one of several Kansas – California connections in this year’s relief sales.
“I’ve got a really rare Case tractor,” Toews said. “Case came out with the Model DV for vineyard work in 1940. There was a total production between 1940 and 1951 of just 582.”
That tractor, and four others, were donated by Charlie Neufeld, who with his son operates an orchard in Kingsburg, California.
“I was fond of that tractor,” Neufeld said. “My father used to have one just like these. A guy wanted to sell me seven of them and I bought them all. We used them for another 30 years.”
The orchard where Neufeld grows peaches, prunes, and nectarines was once a vineyard, but the tractors adapted well.
“We went from making raisins to selling nectarines and peaches,” he said. “Even though they’re narrow, they fit fine. They fit better into our operations.”
Neufeld said he sold two of the tractors locally, and sent five to Toews to use for MCC relief.
“He was supposed to pony them up to make them real pretty for the sale,” he said.
Toews found someone to buy two of the tractors immediately, and has been working on the other three, with some help.
“Kurtis Duerksen, a young kid who works at John Deere in McPherson, restored it for us,” he said.
But the connection goes both ways. There are Hillsboro and Hesston items that will be in the Fresno MCC sale this year, Koop said.
“We have a piece of furniture that comes from Tabor College this year, a chair out of some hall that ended up out here,” he said. “It has ‘TC’ engraved in the arms. Paul Friesen, a sculptor in Hesston who taught at Bethel, sent a wooden bust he carved from orangewood.”
Koop said the ways in which the auctions are connected is gratifying.
“It’s recycling God’s goodness,” he said.
The MCC Relief Sale will be April 7-8 at the state fairgrounds in Hutchinson.