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Honoring His Uncle's Memory With Classic Cars and Charity
Jeremy Hegfors’ uncle Dale passed on his love for classic cars at an early age.
Sometimes it’s hard to trace your inspirations back to their roots. But not for Jeremy Hegfors — for him, it all begins with Hot Wheels cars, strawberry milkshakes and a 1940 Ford Deluxe Sedan.
Jeremy, an underwriting operations services representative for American Family Insurance in Eden Prairie, Minn., fondly remembers his childhood trips to his uncle Dale’s house. It’s at that home in Ely, Minn., where Jeremy learned about and came to share in his uncle’s love of classic cars.
Inside the house, Jeremy and his sister Kim explored an imaginary world, created by Dale, with their Hot Wheels cars. Outside, Jeremy would often hop in the driver seat of one of his uncle’s cars — of which he had 32 of throughout his lifetime — and pretend to cruise Ely just like Dale did in his youth. And later, they’d make trips in one of those cars to Dairy Queen, where Jeremy remembers his uncle’s unvarying order — a strawberry shake.
His love for vintage automobiles exploded as he saw his father and Dale's finished restoration of a 1940 Ford Deluxe Sedan. Jeremy remembers the car vividly — its metallic green paint job, all-leather interior and the cassette player mounted in the dash. The three of them regularly took the car to the Minnesota Street Rod Association’s (MSRA) “Back to the 50’s” Car Show at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds in St. Paul.
Jeremy loved the compliments they got on the car, and he especially cherished the conversations it started. Paired with all the meticulously cared-for vehicles he saw at the shows, he knew it wouldn’t be long before he started his own rebuilding project.
Thanks to Dale’s advice, Jeremy settled on a 1968 Plymouth Barracuda. This car wasn’t a distinct metallic green color like the Sedan, but it was certainly memorable — because it was painted approximately six different colors.
Jeremy, his father and Dale quickly tore the car apart and began the rebuilding process. Dale helped rebuild the car’s front suspension, and the three of them rewired the car’s original AM radio to support Bluetooth. And while it might seem like a relatively minor part of a highly technical and intensive rebuilding effort, it’s probably Jeremy’s favorite feature of the car.
Both then and now, Jeremy says there’s only one kind of music that plays on that radio: classic rock.
“It was important to Dale that I have a car that I could enjoy and work on at the same time,” Jeremy says. “Most of his projects didn’t work out that way, so the Barracuda became a dream of both of ours.”
The first two years of the rebuild were filled with ups and downs — something that Jeremy quickly learned is typical in the restoration process. But even with those challenges, working with his father and Dale on a project they all had deep-rooted passion for made the struggles seem insignificant.
Dale was diagnosed with cancer in 2014, and after a long battle with the disease, passed away in 2018. His last ride in his cherished 1967 Hemi Charger came less than a week before his passing, and Jeremy thinks that ride made him feel that his life was complete.
“Dale was an incredible mentor to my sister, cousin and me,” Jeremy says. “He enjoyed taking time to learn about each of our lives, and offered advice if we ever needed it. When we were young, he helped us play. And while we were older, he enjoyed teaching us more about life.
“But even though Dale is gone, his dreams still live on through me.”
In August, Jeremy participated in the Chainbreaker bike tour in honor of Dale. The Chainbreaker raises money for life-saving cancer research with 25-, 50-, 100- and 180-mile bike rides through Minnesota.
Before his passing, Dale expressed frustration that he couldn’t donate his body for specific cancer research. He had hoped that his struggles with the disease might be able to benefit future cancer patients and society overall.
“That was probably the most powerful thing I’ve ever heard anyone say, and that really inspired me to do something,” Jeremy says. “When I told Dale about the ride, his face lit up with excitement.”
All money raised from the event goes to the Masonic Cancer Center at the University of Minnesota. While totals for the 2018 event won’t be available until mid-October, the ride raised $1,389,085.04 in 2017.
Jeremy credits Jim Thrun, a facilities and support coordinator for American Family, for mentioning the event in a meeting. American Family supported Jeremy’s team, the AmFam Roadrunners, in this year’s event. Dale and Jeremy both shared a love of Plymouth Roadrunners — and Jeremy even has a tattoo of the classic cartoon character on his calf.
“Chainbreaker weekend was amazing,” Jeremy says. “Jim Thrun, Katie [Jim’s wife] and I biked from Eagan to Hampton, Minnesota, which is a scenic 25 miles. It was an amazing accomplishment and it felt so great crossing that finish line all in the name of cancer research.”
Next year, Jeremy will ride 50-mile route and continue to build on his uncle’s goal of helping others beat cancer.
Until then, Jeremy plans on taking the Barracuda out at least once a week, travelling to local car shows or cruising the countryside, listening to the Motley Crue, ZZ Top, and AC/DC to honor Dale.
“If there was anything he loved more than cars, it was his family and friends.”
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