Deantre Reed may only have been in his early teens, but he knew exactly what kind of car he was looking for and already had his design scheme worked out for when he found it.
"He had me on a mission to find this car," said his mother, Nicole McCoy. "It had to be an Olds Cutlass." Ironically, it turned out a cousin, C.J. Milum just happened to have an '83 Olds Cutlass for sale.
"It had primer spots and rust all over it ... but he wanted that car," his mother said. "He had got a job and was going to work to get that paint job when he got sick," she said.
What at first was thought to be pneumonia turned out to be something worse -- much worse: lung cancer. "He had never smoked a day in his life," his mother said. Diagnosed last June, the disease claimed 15-year-old Deantre on Sept. 22.
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Tragically, the soft-spoken young man known as "Whisper" to family and friends would not live to see his beloved Olds completed.
But that didn't mean the car would not be completed. Deantre's aunt, Kisha Reed, had mounted a campaign to find vendors willing to donate parts and pieces to the project while Deantre was hospitalized.
She persuaded her sister, Nicole, to write a letter explaining Deantre's situation to potential auto parts and service providers.
"The Radio Shop was the first to say, 'Hey, let us do this for you.' They installed a car alarm in the car," Kisha said.
Then Christy Harris at Lonny Moore's Collision Repair heard about the situation and brought it to her boss' attention. "After I talked to the family, I said, 'I think we need to do this,'" Lonny Moore said.
When Deantre passed away before the project could really get rolling, Moore said his shop's involvement went from doing a paint job to ramrodding the whole build.
"The guys in our shop all stepped up and picked up work on the car when they weren't really busy," said Moore. "We wanted to give the family something to hang on to." Among the crew who cut out rusted panels and replaced them, smoothed the sheet metal and applied the custom metallic-over-silver paint job were Jason Burnett, Johnny Vasquez, J.T. Ellis, Joe Dela Rosa, Kyle Moore and Nick Howell.
Nunie Coleman of The Tire Store arranged to provide a set of 20-inch chrome spoked DIP wheels to the cause at dealer cost and supplied the Trazano N7000 245x35xR20 tires free of charge. The Windshield Shop donated a new windshield and Moore had Signs by Shire handle the graphics.
Two months after it rolled in as a rough, well-used car, Moore and his crew presented the keys to the customized Cutlass to Nicole McCoy and her family at no charge. "It was pretty emotional," Moore said.
Andover Towing and Recovery even delivered it to Nicole's home.
"They did a beautiful job on it ... they were ready and happy to do it. I really, really appreciate them doing this. That was his dream car," said his mother. "He was a good kid, never got in trouble. He played football and basketball at Northwest," she said.
Kisha Reed said an estimated 3,500 people attended Deantre's funeral service.
"It's the life my son lived. You can tell by the community stepping up that he lived the best life," Nicole said.
"It's been hard. I know for a fact that it was God that got me through this," she said.
Deantre's dream car has been driven only once since it came home -- to a celebration of his 16th birthday and to his grave site. Across the deck lid of the Olds is inscribed: "In Loving Memory, Deantre 'Whisper' Reed, 1994-2009."
"I'm sorry he didn't get to see it. But I know he is looking down, smiling now," said Nicole.