MASSILLON – Patrick Epler has never forgotten the day he found out his neighbor brought home a hot rod from the 60s.
Epler fondly remembers when his friend Richard Fuchs, 18 or 19, bought a shiny and tanned Dodge Coronet 500 from 1965. Epler lived nearby on 12th Street. Her mom shared the new car treat after she got home from school.
âIt was Friday the 13th, and my mom said, ‘Richie got a new car,’ recalls Epler, who was 13 at the time. said, “Oh my God!”
Following:Lasting Legacy: Innocence Lost for Friends on the West Side of Massillon
Following:“I was on the front line:” WWII veteran from Stark County shares his experience in Okinawa
Fuchs, who graduated from Washington High School in 1964, then enlisted in the US Marines. In 1967, he died during the Vietnam War.
After Fuchs’ death, his Dodge Coronet was sold. But a few decades ago, Epler tracked down the vehicle in Pennsylvania and bought it. It remains a source of pride.
âI’ve always been a car guy, and (this one) meant a lot to me,â Epler said Wednesday. “It’s Richie’s Dodge.”
Downtown Cruise, Route 21 Race
Fuchs, according to Epler, was somewhat of a daredevil who would often speed the car up down the driveway and run out along straight stretches of road. Fuchs and his adult friends occasionally ran along sections of Route Nationale 21 through Massillon.
Taking a slower ride in the hot rod with Fuchs on Lincoln Way or downtown has always been a treat, Epler said.
âWe didn’t run or (go full speed),â he said. “It was more like zero to sixties. But it was the fastest car in town.”
Fuchs’ death in 1967 hit Epler hard and ultimately prompted him to purchase the Dodge Coronet 500 in the early 2000s.
“He was a cool guy and he taught me how to throw a softball in the garden.”
Epler occasionally rolls the classic Dodge into area auto shows, where he pays homage to Fuchs with a sign detailing his military service, sacrifice and life.
At a friend’s suggestion, Epler showed the car last weekend at an event at the Chapel of the United Methodist Church of the Cross in Lawrence Township.
âI don’t go out too much, but I go to a few shows when I can,â he said.
Sister recalls her brother’s service
Janet Lab said she lost her brother, Lance Cpl. Richard Fuchs, when he was 20 years old. He died in a helicopter crash in January 1967 during the war with other Marines, including his fellow Lance Cpls. William F. Coyne and Timothy D. Berry, both of Massillon.
âThey were on the buddy system and all joined the military together,â Lab said.
Fuchs is buried in Brookfield Cemetery in Massillon. He, Coyne and Berry, along with five other Marines, died when a UH-34 helicopter crashed in the South China Sea.
A plaque for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Viaduct on Tremont Avenue was dedicated in 2010, showing the names of 18 men from Massillon, including Fuchs, Coyne and Berry, who died in the war.
Contact Steven at [email protected]
On Twitter: @sgrazierINDE