Every antique tractor and piece of equipment seems to have a story behind it.
Take Mike White’s 1955 Oliver Super 77. Although most restorers strive to make their treasures look exactly as they did when they rolled off the assembly line, Mike opted to paint his Oliver pink, and adorn it with rhinestones and sparkly accessories.
Mike’s wife, Gina, takes credit for the unlikely color. “He wanted me to drive one of his tractors in the Hartland (Wis.) parade,” she says, “and I told him the only way I’d do it would be if he’d paint it pink.”
There was a method to Gina’s madness. She and Mike are enthusiastic supporters of AngelsGrace Hospice, a 5-year-old facility near Oconomowoc, Wis., where Gina volunteers one day a week. She envisioned a pink tractor as a means of generating support for AngelsGrace – and it worked. She drove the tractor in several parades, pulling a wagon (decorated in pink, naturally) full of women who paid at least $100 for a seat.
“It was amazing,” she says. “I asked for $100 a person, and 50 people paid that and more. We went through parades in Oconomowoc, Hartland and Stone Bank.” Each paying passenger received a T-shirt (in pink, of course) and was a guest at post-parade parties.
Mike bought the Oliver from a Brookfield, Wis., farmer, intending to make mechanical repairs, give it a new paint job and add it to his collection. “The engine was in good shape, but the clutch was going out and we had to split the tractor to repair that,” he notes. “We had trouble getting a part that we needed but I operate a machine shop so we made it there.”
Once the mechanical work was complete, Mike sandblasted the tractor and was on course to return it to its original colors. “That’s when Gina came up with the idea of using it as a fundraiser,” he says. Together they picked the color (using a breast cancer survivor’s pink ball cap as inspiration). Car Craft, an area body shop, donated the paint job.
Gina’s friends applied the finishing touches, using rhinestones and other glitz (old glass doorknobs accent shift levers). The crew christened the finished product “Trixie” in honor of the head nurse at AngelsGrace. A 50-passenger trolley-style people carrier completed the rig.
The effort raised more than $11,000 for AngelsGrace. “It’s wonderful, because the beauty of AngelsGrace is that they don’t deny anyone just because they can’t afford to stay there,” Gina says. “The facility has 15 beds, and some people stay just a couple of days, while others stay as long as four months.”
The facility has many volunteers who help make people comfortable in their final days. “It’s not just for cancer patients,” Gina notes. “It’s for anyone. There is a real satisfaction in volunteering, because it helps the families so much.”
As the wagon with donors passed along the parade route, onlookers cheered. “All along the route, cancer survivors were shouting out ‘three years cancer-free’ or ‘five years cancer-free’ and just cheering us on,” Gina recalls. “We hope to do the parades every year just to do what we can to help.”