BRIONNA FRIEDRICH | THE DAILY WORLD
Robert Eddy leans against his newly rebuilt truck. Thieves stripped it earlier this year while he was home on leave from Afghanistan, but his brother and friends teamed up to repair the damage. The license plate number has been removed from the photo.
BRIONNA FRIEDRICH | THE DAILY WORLD
Robert Eddy shows off the custom cut sticker in memory of his father, which his brother added as a finishing touch on the truck. Thieves stripped it earlier this year while he was home on leave from Afghanistan, but his brother and friends teamed up to repair the damage. Eddy’s father left him the truck. The license plate number has been removed from the photo.
Jason Eddy walked through the woods to the place where the Hoquiam Police had found his brother’s truck. As he got closer, his heart sank, and by the time he got a good look at what thieves had left behind, it was in his feet.
Tears came to his eyes. He would have to send Robert Eddy, a sailor deployed to Afghanistan, photos of what was left of the truck their father had left to him when he died.
There wasn’t much. The cab had been cut away from the frame, and mostly just the interior was left behind. They even scraped off the custom sticker Robert had made in memory of his father, Robert Sr., across his back window.
“It was heartbreaking to say the least,” Robert said of seeing his truck that way.
It seemed beyond repair, and Robert felt like there wasn’t anything he could do from the other side of the world.
“I told him to scrap it — this is too much for me to even ask my brother to do,” he recalled.
“I thought about it for a second,” Jason admits, “I couldn’t do it. … My dad left it to him when he died. He deserves to have that truck.”
So Jason set about selling some of his own belongings to raise money for parts — he was going to need a lot of them.
“The car wasn’t worth it”
Robert was home on emergency leave in December to see his mother, Debora Harris, who had just suffered a stroke. He spent Christmas at Harborview Medical Center, and the very night he came home to Hoquiam, the 1988 Toyota 4Runner was stolen. Robert spent a day looking for his truck, but then he realized he was letting the thieves steal his time with his family as well as the vehicle. Police had no luck finding it before he had to go back to Afghanistan. He returned to duty on New Year’s Day.
Weeks later, police received a tip that the truck was in the woods near Clark’s Restaurant in Artic.
Just getting it out of the woods was a job. Jason and Mike Papa, a friend of Robert’s, had to basically put the pieces into a large sling and pull it up to a logging road, then load it onto a flat-bed.
From there, it went to Jason’s house, where there wasn’t a shop or even a yard to work in, just a steep driveway. It was there that the the truck started to look like a truck again, placed back on its frame with the bulk of the dents knocked out of it.
Jason sent photos to Robert through Facebook to show him the progress of the repair. Eventually, Robert got excited about it, too — he started searching for parts online and sending them home to add to the project.
Jason hit the mother lode at the junk yard: a matching truck with a burned-out motor that he could harvest parts from.
Their mother’s boyfriend, Dan Brown, got involved with the reconstruction. A retired master mechanic, he brought 45 years of know-how to the task. He nonchalantly said he’d seen trucks in that bad of shape before.
Asked if he’d seen worse, he laughs.
“Probably not,” he said. “Usually when they’re in that bad of shape, you don’t come back to them.”
In this case, the rebuilding wasn’t about the truck.
“It’s more or less about being a family and doing something together rather than fixing the car. The car wasn’t worth it.”
Better than ever
Robert called the 4Runner his baby before it was stolen. The previous July, it had just gotten a huge sound system upgrade, and he had been tinkering with it for years since inheriting it.
“It wasn’t an overnight transition. I did put blood, sweat and tears into it,” he said.
It meant so much of him, Jason didn’t want him to ever see it in person the way it was after the theft. When he came back from his deployment a few weeks ago, “it was better,” Robert said.
“It was a paint job away from a brand-new truck,” he added.
Dan’s children, Chip and Kevin Brown, joined in and helped build a new engine. The parts truck had a six-cylinder engine, compared with the original’s four-cylinder, so an upgrade was built-in.
Friends Tammy and Randy Minkler helped out, and Ken Kaivo of the Grays Harbor Stump Busters offered advice and some spare parts. Jason said he probably spent three or four weeks on it, “but that was a lot of hours, days and nights and non-stop hours.”
Dan guessed his investment was about 250 hours.
As a finishing touch, Jason had a new sticker cut and placed on the window memorializing their father.
Proudly showing off the truck, Robert points out other things he’d like to do. A new nerf bar, some more dings to clear out, maybe even another sound system improvement. The “baby” probably won’t ever be all grown up and finished.
“Just seeing the look on my brother’s face when he got back was everything to me,” Jason said.
Robert says driving it doesn’t feel the same, but it has taken on a new meaning.
“I’ve lost that feeling of my dad, but it’s been replaced with my brother,” he said.