He spent 20 years trying to buy back his grandmother’s “Passionate Pink” Mustang

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He spent 20 years trying to buy back his grandmother’s “Passionate Pink” Mustang

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Sam McGee picked up the phone in 2022 and dialed the same number he had called every year for decades. He had the same question he’d been asking for 20 years: Could his family buy back his late grandmother’s Ford Mustang, sold in 1973, to pay for her funeral expenses?

Since 2001, the answer has been the same. Although the nuances ranged from firm denial to “maybe one day” to “I’ll think about it,” the end result was always no. But in May 2022, McGee told the owner, whose family had kept the car for nearly 50 years, that he was considering buying a similar pink Mustang in Houston, about 200 miles east of him in Boerne, a town outside of San Antonio.

“But I really want my grandmother’s. Let me know if you’re willing to sell it,” McGee remembers telling him. “She said, ‘Let me think about it for a few days.’ »

McGee, now 48, will have to wait to learn the fate of his decades-long mission, first reported by the San Antonio Express-News and recently covered by the Wall Street Journal. Although he had never met his grandmother Eva Marie Corcoran, who died by suicide at the age of 42, McGee felt the void that her death and the loss of his beloved Mustang “Passionate Pink” had left in his life. his family. A Mustang enthusiast himself, McGee felt compelled to collect the family vehicle. He also wanted to use the car to raise awareness about suicide prevention.

Because he believes the car, with its pink exterior and houndstooth hood, is unique, McGee eventually named the suicide prevention campaign “You Are One of One.”

“I want it to be a vibrant tribute to my grandmother,” he said.

McGee first learned about his grandmother’s car in the early 1990s while restoring a 1966 Mustang with his father in high school. While they fixed it in the evenings and on weekends, his father sometimes talked about his mother’s pink Mustang with an unusual black and white checkered roof. Since his mother’s death had clearly traumatized his father, McGee said he did not press for more information.

When the Internet became more mainstream at the end of the decade, McGee researched his grandmother’s 1968 Mustang. He learned that the car was part of a promotion during the first four months of that year in which Ford released different colored Mustangs every month. In February, that color was pink.

McGee believes it was one of the few pink Mustangs sold in the Denver area, where his grandmother lived at the time, and further research led him to believe it was the alone with a houndstooth top.

Around 2001, his grandfather told him the car had been sold to a couple in Selden, Kansas, near where McGee’s parents were from. McGee found their number and called them. They confirmed that the family had purchased the car almost 30 years earlier and still owned it. They told McGee they had no plans to sell it, but he could call every year to keep asking.

McGee did this flawlessly during the Bush, Obama and Trump administrations and during the first part of President Biden’s. Every May, McGee would call and every May, he would receive a polite refusal.

A few strong points broke through the many rejections. In 2007, McGee traveled to Kansas for his grandfather’s 80th birthday. Knowing he would be less than 40 miles from the car, he asked the owner if he could come see her and she agreed. He and his wife took the detour. During the trip, he learned that the car had 53,000 miles on the odometer, had all original parts and had been perfectly preserved. McGee took a photo with the car, sat in the driver’s seat and started the engine.

“It kind of ignited my passion,” he said.

During a 2021 trip to Colorado for a family wedding, McGee and his father took a 700-mile detour to see the car. It was the first time McGee’s father had seen her since 1972, when he watched her mother drive her off into the sunset on her way to a new life in Denver. It was also the last time he saw his mother alive.

“At that point, I knew I just had to get this thing back,” McGee said.

But he didn’t – not at this meeting. McGee again asked the owner to sell and was again rejected.

Then May 2022 arrived. McGee made his annual phone call to deliver his near-ultimatum involving the other pink Mustang, prompting the owner to take some time to think about it. A few days later, she called back: she was going to sell.

McGee said he believes the owner ultimately sold him the Mustang because, although it had been driven by his family for two generations, it had sat in a barn and then in a warehouse for about 15 years. It was neither used nor worked on. Additionally, she seemed moved by the McGee family’s connection to the car and their plan to use it to help people in crisis, McGee said.

Shortly thereafter, McGee and his father drove two days and approximately 800 miles from Boerne, Texas, to the owner’s home in Selden, Kan. During the trip, McGee’s father learned that his mother had died while he was about to graduate. from the University of Kansas and began a life with his wife and 2-year-old daughter. He spoke to McGee about Eva’s upbringing – how her aunt and uncle raised her after her own mother died when she was young and how she devoted her love to good -be of his children.

McGee said he believed his father’s view on suicide had changed from a taboo subject to something that could be avoided if it was openly talked about.

“It was kind of the ultimate father-son road trip,” McGee said.

Through his grandmother, McGee is a board member of Hill Country Family Services, a nonprofit organization that embeds mental health workers within the local sheriff’s department to help families in crisis. He brought the car to raise awareness of the national helpline 988 and end the stigma associated with talking about mental health. In November, he plans to participate in an “Out of the Darkness” fundraiser hosted by the South Texas chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

“We plan to use this car for a long time. It will not stay in a museum. This is going to be used for good things,” he said.

McGee sees it as a way to honor her grandmother with something that brought her joy more than half a century ago and brings her joy now.

“For me, even though it was my grandmother that I never knew, it was definitely a little hole in our family history and a little hole in our family dynamic – something that we didn’t talk about a lot. .

“And so by buying this car, in a way, I kind of felt like I was bringing it back.”

If you or someone you know needs help, visit 988lifeline.org or call or text Suicide & Crisis Lifeline to 988.

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