Bill Cooper would have been delighted.
His grandson Leo crawled over the front seat of Cooper’s forest green 1964 Ford Fairlane as his wife Fern and children Kevin Cooper and Corina Dixon stood by. “He only likes the green car,” said Kevin as Leo pretended to drive.
The family brought the car to Road Kings on Saturday in memory of Bill, who passed away last year. The Fairlane holds a lifetime of significance to the Coopers. Bill bought the car in 1965 and drove it as he courted Fern, a Nelson native who has lived here for 68 years.
The pair used it at their wedding in 1966, and would have had their 50th anniversary in October. Bill was a regular presence at Road Kings, which made his absence particularly hard on the family.
“It’s difficult but I’m grateful because of my children that we’re together as a family,” said Fern. “That would have been my husband’s wish.”
There were 322 cars of various ages, makes and models lining Baker Street, but the Fairlane stood out for the family gathered around it.
The Cooper children grew up in the Fairlane. The family used it for vacations, Bill showed it off at the occasional show, and when they graduated both Kevin and Corina were driven downtown in the Fairlane as part of the annual graduation parade. When he passed, Bill’s ashes were driven to the cemetery in the car by Kevin.
“It’s just emotional when we heard it fire up,” said Corina. “Kevin fired it up to get it ready for the show and just the sound, you expect to see him. And honking the horn, he enjoyed honking the horn, tapping it, beeping it and you just imagine it was his hand honking the horn.”
Before Bill’s death, a family friend repainted the engine its original colour and reupholstered the interior to honour his last wish. Fern said the family was lucky to have kept the car.
“The most touching thing is when you talk to people about old cars they always say, ‘I used to have one of those’ and they sold it,” said Fern. “I just feel grateful that we were able to keep it, that we didn’t have to sacrifice it in the early years when you’re bare bones and you’re raising a family. It was stored all those years on our boulevard and in our garage.
She hopes the Fairlane remains a constant in the Cooper family history.
“Perhaps we’ll still have it for the next generation going down the line.”