'49 Studebaker completed for cancer patient, Navy veteran

Cary Ashby • Dec 9, 2017 at 10:00 PM

The two men did the work because it was the right thing to do.

While Kenny Chrislip was in the VA hospital in Cleveland being treated for cancer, Jim Williams and a local body shop owner donated their time to prepare and paint Chrislip’s 1949 Studebaker. Williams is the co-owner of Williams Norwalk Tire & Alignment. The body shop owner declined to be identified.

“I think if it were reversed, they would do the same for them,” said Williams’ wife, Vicki, vice president of Williams Norwalk Tire & Alignment, referring to the work. “(They) would do anything for anybody.

“Action Auto gave us a discount on the supplies, but did not donate all of them,” she added. “Some people do it (things like this) for the publicity; some do it because they like the person.”

In May, Chrislip was diagnosed with head and throat cancer. He was in the VA hospital from July until September being treated for cancer complications. Despite his hospitalization, he said he helped dismantle the Studebaker on its way to being back in prime condition.

Chrislip, who said he served “three months shy of four years” for the U.S. Navy, was stationed in Pearl Harbor from 1969 through 1973. He has lived in Norwalk since the fifth grade.

When Chrislip saw the finished Studebaker, he said he “didn’t know what to think.”

“I did not know what to say or anything,” he added. “It was a shock to me it turned out as nice as it did.”

The work crew added a “ghost” Navy anchor, which is blended into the paint job.

“If you look at it from a distance, you’re not going to see it,” Vicki Williams said. “He (Chrislip) kept saying, ‘I can’t stop looking at it.’”

About 10 years ago, Chrislip bought the 1949 Studebaker for $1,500. Now, the Norwalk man estimates it’s worth about $10,000.

“It was a wreck when I got it,” Chrislip said. “The wiring was all burnt up. The gas tank was full of crap. … It was pretty rough.” 

He did some of the work on the antique car, which despite its condition, was driveable.

“I did all the wiring on it. I refurbished the carburetor. I cleaned up the trunk. That winter I painted it,” said Chrislip, who bought the Studebaker because it’s unusual to see one.

Chrislip was a full-time employee for 14 years at Williams Norwalk Tire & Alignment. The 65-year-old man now is working part time as a brake expert.

Known around the shop as “Grandpa,” Chrislip is longtime friends with the Williams family and the local body shop owner.

“I’ve been here so long I’m like one of the family,” he said.

Keep an eye out for the Studebaker at car shows. Before being diagnosed with cancer, Chrislip said he averaged “two dozen a year.”

“I take it to Milan every Tuesday,” he added.

The Studebaker originally was maroon.

“They called it holiday red,” Chrislip said.

When he first bought the car, his wife, Kathy (Green) Chrislip, was less than happy.

“She thinks it’s OK now because it’s better looking now,” said Kenny Chrislip, who has a son, Nathan, and two grandchildren.

For nearly the last eight years, Chrislip has been a member of Car Coddlers of Ohio, an antique car club based out of Sandusky. He is a former vice president.

“I always liked Studebakers. … I think I have the only ‘49 in Huron County.”

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