A Delaware County resident was reunited with his 45-year-old tractor last year after students from Tri-Rivers Career Center fixed the tractor and delivered it to him.
Steve “Poppy” Thrall, 96, a lifelong resident and veteran from Galena, said he bought blue Ford 3000 diesel tractor in 1971 for his landscaping business, Greenhill Landscaping. His grandson, Stephen Ray, said Thrall used the tractor for more than 30 years before he suffered a stroke in 2007.
In spite of his health, Thrall continued to use “Old Blue” for landscaping until it began to have problems.
Students and an instructor at Marion’s Tri-Rivers heard about Thrall and Old Blue and jumped on the idea of fixing the tractor for him.
“We love to do these projects,” said instructor Jim Rittler. “They are rewarding and very educational.”
Rittler said he, his assistant instructor, Jim Kelly, and four other students began working on Old Blue and hoped to return it to Thrall.
According to Ray, once the Tri-Rivers crew began working on the tractor, Thrall suffered another stroke.
“What set out to be a quick repair had become something more personal,” Ray said.
Ray said Thrall is making a good recovery from the stroke and added that, during his recovery, Thrall could proudly exclaim that his tractor was in the shop and he looked forward to getting out on Old Blue again.
“This inspiration could not have come at a better time,” Ray said. “The work Jim and his class had continued to put into Old Blue is much more than just repairing a tractor for a senior. It has provided support for [Thrall’s] recovery and the ability to look forward to continue doing the things he loves to do. For a man who has spent his life working hard and helping others, this gift of a safer, more reliable tractor for Steve to enjoy is just what the doctor ordered.”
Steve is currently continuing his rehabilitation at home and looks forward to working with the tractor again once he has recovered, Ray said.
Rittler and Kelly delivered the tractor July 22, 2016, and received a warm “thank you” from Thrall and his family.
“Routine and staying busy is what keeps you going,” Thrall said. “It’s awfully nice of all of the students to do what they have done for me. I might need to call her New Blue now!”
Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903 or on Twitter @BattishillDG.