When we love something, it’s hard to let go. It makes us remember a time when everyone was happy and life just seemed a lot simpler. We hold on to that special something; it keeps our hearts connected to the people and places that have deep meaning to us. The same thing can be said about a 1988 Dodge Dakota owned by Vincent Shocklee, the beloved father and grandfather of Shocklee family. Vince Shocklee was man of great personality, and a World War II Veteran who served in the Navy as a Petty Officer during D-Day.
The 1988 Dodge Dakota was an all around versatile truck for its time. People love the durability of the Dakota, it is said that it was made for hard work. The engine and powertrain practically last forever, and the great thing about the exterior is that it doesn’t rust from wear and tear over time. The length of the Dakota makes it easier to move around the city and in parking lots more than some of the larger, bulkier trucks. The 1988 Dodge Dakota was affordable, perfect for the working man, and great for hauling supplies for long family vacations.
Vincent Shocklee bought his first Dodge Dakota when he needed a good vehicle to help support his small business, Cherry Wood Farms. He worked with his wife, Jeanette, whom he was married to for over 55 years. The family had a few different operations; two fried chicken stores and a smoked turkey business. The Dakota helped in making deliveries for clients that required the goods to be packaged up and shipped off throughout the country. The major peak in business for smoked turkey was always around the holidays, even some holidays ending up to being about 2,000 pre-packaged shipments. It was part of his daily routine to see Vince driving about town between fried chicken and smoked turkey operations to keep up with business demand.
The Dakota was not just important to the family business, it was also the backbone of the Shocklee family vacations. The Dakota was fondly remembered for helping the Shocklee’s take their boat out with the grandkids for fun times at the lake. According to Bob Shocklee, this was one of their more unforgettable experiences with the truck. But it didn’t stop there, this vehicle left an imprint on the heart of the family for its usefulness and connection to their grandfather. The Dakota was the “go to car” for any kind of major work needed. It helped Aileen and Bob’s kids get to college, and it was just all around dependable vehicle for work, travel, and play.
The Shocklee family was introduced to Integrity Automotive by the eldest son of Aileen and Bob Shocklee; Paul Shocklee, one summer on a road trip back home from Cornell University. It was 1995, and Paul was riding back from New York in his Mustang which was not in the greatest shape. He looked up local repair shop with the name Integrity, and it seemed like a great fit. This began the longstanding relationship between Robert Waeiss, owner of Integrity, and the Shocklee family. In total, the Shocklee clan has about seven people. Bob Shocklee even mentioned that one summer the family received a fleet discount from the amount of oil changes they had with all of the cars they brought to Integrity. He laughed; as he shared that he was spending too much time around the shop time time Bob and Linda gave his family a gift certificate for one of their favorite restaurants at Christmas. What kept the Shocklee’s going back to Integrity was the honest, trustworthy service they always were given. Bob and Linda treated the Shocklee’s like family.
The Dakota lived a long, fulfilling life that any car could ask for, but the Shocklee’s knew that it was time to pass it along since it was getting too expensive to repair. The family decided to give the car to Integrity Automotive. Bob Shocklee remembers driving by the shop with his family and thinking fondly of their grandpa. “When he was getting sick with cancer, we would ask him, ‘is there anything we can do for you today?’ And he would just tell us to give his truck a drive to keep it going,” Bob shared. One of the funniest memories the family had about Vincent and his Dakota was when he would get stuck on the side of the road. He would have to call AAA to come and bail him out of land-lock with some gas so he could get to a nearby station and fill up. Bob Shocklee distinctively remembers Vincent always kept something to read in the car so that when it would happen, he had something to do while waiting.
So what’s next for the great Dodge Dakota? It seems it is time again for it to make another transition in its long, fulfilled life of giving back to others. In the greatest way, the Dakota will have an even more significant impact on the lives of others in its next phase of life. Robert and Linda Waeiss plan to donate the Dakota to a charity organization known as City Life Wheels. Nate Hershey, a former employee of Integrity Automotive, is now the Director of City Life Wheels for the Indianapolis area. Before getting involved with City Life Wheels, Nate Hershey was mentoring at risk youth on the East side of Indy with limited knowledge in automotive repair. But a dream was planted in his heart to start helping these youth learn a great skill that could not only help them in their own lives, but also carry them forward to a future career. The first step for Nate towards teaching kids about the world of cars was by attending Lincoln Tech to obtain a degree in automotive repair. From there on, he worked in various shops putting his knowledge to practice while gaining great experience along the way. Eventually, he transitioned to Integrity Automotive. Nate Hershey explains that Bob Waeiss “took a chance on him” by letting him on the team. He didn’t have much experience, and working for Integrity was essentially a stepping stone that forged him the tools he needed to take become the director of City Life Wheels.
Recently, City Life Wheels just renovated a new place to maximize their efforts at reaching at risk youth within Indianapolis. One of the greatest takeaways from working with the kids of this community is that they no longer attribute to the stereotype of being “takers” from society, but have transformed with their new intellect in automotive repair as contributors to society. Not only are they learning a new professional skill, but they’re also being enriched spiritually. City Life Wheels provides an opportunity to keep kids out of trouble while also teaching them Christian values. They will be able to grow up, support their families, and make better decisions with their newfound faith as a guiding light. Nate Hershey also mentioned that the donation of the Dakota will be an exciting one. The kids don’t always have an opportunity to learn how to drive a stick shift. So, this will be a great chance to practice those skills.
There is a story about a family who lost everything they had in a house fire. When asked by others if they could go back in time and take anything from their home before the fire hit, the family would always say pictures. The reason being is that everything else is replaceable; clothes, food, general household items—you can always buy more. But the pictures are like a snapshot in time which can never be replaced. They were of such value to the family because of the memories tied behind the moments in every photo. That, in the same way, is what the 1988 Dodge Dakota is to the Shocklee’s, to Robert and Linda Waeiss, and now will be to City Life Wheels and every heart that this great truck touches.