Effingham Daily News, Effingham, IL

December 24, 2013

Community pulls together to honor man's dying wish

Tony Huffman
Effingham Daily News

EFFINGHAM — Ron Henderson's dying wish to have his 1970 Chevrolet Monte Carlo restored became more about the effect he had on those around him than about the project itself.

During his yearlong battle with melanoma, Ron served as an inspiration to many around him.

     “When he first got diagnosed, I was a mess,” said his wife, Cathy Henderson. “I had separation anxiety, but Ron took care of me.”

     Cathy credits Ron's spirituality and approach to life as the strength he needed to deal with the diagnosis.

     “Ron started every day with a cup of tea and his Bible,” she said.

“When he was diagnosed, he chose quality of life over chemotherapy,” she said. “He wanted to enjoy the time we had left.”

    The last several months have been the most taxing of Cathy's life. In addition to losing her companion of 15 years, her mother passed away five weeks prior to Ron's death. Seeing the interaction between her mother and husband cemented her belief in her husband's remarkable spirit.

     “My mother was sick for a long time before she died,” she said “Ron was a mentor to her. I could tell Ron helped her with the fear. By the end, she didn’t have that fear of dying.”

Longtime friend Kevin Pocrnich echoed Ron's connection with others.

“Ron just had a way about him,” he said. “He would do anything for anyone.”

     When Ron was diagnosed with the terminal illness, the two sat down to decide how he would spend his remaining time

     “I asked him if he wanted to travel the world,” recalled Pocrnich. “He said 'I want to get that Monte going.'”

     About four months before his death, the friends pulled the car out of storage and began to disassemble it. Ron, who was from Greenup, commuted to his job at General Electric in Mattoon more than 20 years ago in the vehicle.

     “The car needed everything,” said Pocrnich. “It was in really bad shape.”

     Once they tore into the vehicle and began replacing various rust spots, friends and family started lending a hand. As word spread, local businesses and people within the community began donating toward the project as well.

     “There were a lot of great people that got involved in the project,” said Pocrnich. “Ron, my buddies and I started working on it in the morning and kept at it until midnight.”

     The 67-year-old's health, however, continued to deteriorate. Although he wasn't able to see the completed renovation —  he died two days before — he was able to sit in the car and hear it run.

   Pocrnich spent the morning of Ron's funeral fulfilling a promise to his friend. He put the last pieces of chrome on the vehicle and got a front-end alignment. He then loaded the car on a trailer and brought it to the visitation and funeral.

     “Ron had a lot of people at his visitation,” said Pocrnich. “Everybody loved seeing the car.”

Coincidentally, after Ron and Cathy met, it was over her 1970s model Chevy Monte Carlo that the two bonded. ButCathy doesn't plan on keeping the newly renovated vehicle.

     “He wanted me to have the car,” she said. “It is a beautiful car, and I love what these guys have done, but I don't want it without Ron.”

     Cathy said Ron gave her his blessing to sell the car and donate the proceeds to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital for cancer research.

     Pocrnich estimates the Monte Carlo will bring $15,000 at an auction they are planning. No date has been set for the auction yet.

     The Super Sport Chevy features a 454-cubic-inch motor and new top, paint, bodywork, interior, sound system, tires and rims, new front-end parts and much more.

“We all want the money to go to charity in Ron's memory,” said Pocrnich.

Tony Huffman can be reached at 217-347-7151 ext. 138 or tony.huffman@effinghamdailynews.com.