A 1964 Ford F-100 truck sits at Mt. Juliet’s refurbished Welcome to Mt. Juliet station next to West Wilson Middle School like a “phoenix rising moment for the community,” City Manager Kenny Martin said.
The vintage truck replaces another antique car that sat in the same place, but was destroyed when a tornado picked it up and dropped it in the nearby school’s parking lot last March. The welcome sign was also destroyed.
Recently a rededication ceremony was held to honor longtime Mt. Juliet citizen Glenn “Oco” Hamblen. The truck was dedicated to him on what would have been his 86th birthday. He died this past December.
Longtime Mt. Juliet businessman Yancy Belcher donated the truck to the city for the site. Local artist Kristy Oakley, who has painted other murals in the city, personalized the truck in Hamblen’s memory.
Hamblen’s widow, Betty, was at the dedication ceremony along with her sons, grandchildren and other family members. She said she and Glenn were married 65 years and her husband opened Hamblen’s Wrecker Service in 1962. The company has served the community non-stop since then.
“I think it’s a very honorable memory for Oco,” she said after the ceremony. “He would have been there if he hadn’t passed. He loved old cars. He knew everyone. It’s such an honor and we are so pleased.”
Martin was at the scene before dawn on the morning the tornado hit.
“I could see all the damage in the light of all the emergency vehicles,” he said. “I looked over and noticed the car was gone. I realize this was minor, but knew in my heart it needed to be replaced, as well as the welcome sign.
“I knew I had to get that car replaced as a piece of hope. Every step we take gets us closer to being whole again.”
He thought of a vintage truck that was parked in the driveway of Belcher’s office on North Mt. Juliet Road, not too far from the tornado damage.
“He immediately said yes to donating it,” Martin said. “He was thrilled it would serve as a tribute and part of an even greater memorial on that spot that is planned to not only honor Oco, but the three local victims of the tornado and other special people in the community.”
Belcher lives in Fairview Knoll, not far from places hit hard by the tornado. He had heard about the signature antique car being destroyed by the storm.
“He (Martin) called me up and said they needed to replace the car,” he said. “Saying ‘yes’ was the easiest decision I have ever made. I could not think of a better place for it.”
Belcher said the truck was gifted to him from an appreciative client and was quite the attention getter in his parking lot where people would stop by and ask about it and take pictures with it.
The truck was clear coated and Oakley hand painted the Mt. Juliet logo and Oco’s name on it.
Betty Hamblen said she was asked if the family had any personal items the city could display in the truck.
“I gave them one of his old hats he always wore,” she said. “And he had a bad habit of chewing tobacco and I found some laying around.”
Both items are now displayed inside the truck.