Jeremy Tankersley, a supervisor of customer service at Miller Industries Towing Equipment Inc. in Ooltewah, worked tirelessly to restore a 1941 Chevy wrecker after representatives from Erlanger came to inquire about the truck as a fun decoration for the new Children's Hospital at Erlanger.
Tankersley spent the better part of five months on the restoration of his grandfather's old tow truck. From early December through April, working late into the night seven days a week, he and a few buddies dedicated themselves to transforming the decrepit old wrecker into a child-friendly and functional work of art.
"I grew up restoring vehicles with my dad and grandfather, so I agreed to tackle the project," Tankersley said.
The tow truck was purchased by Tankersley's grandfather in 1955, and was the first truck he used for his business, Dodd Bros. Wrecker Service. Since its decommission, the truck had remained at the family business and was always a popular conversation piece for visitors and staff.
Will Gaither, senior project manager for the new Children's Hospital, was visiting the shop when he noticed the wrecker, and decided it would be a great addition to his building project, whose inspiring and playful design was honored with an American Institute of Architects Richmond Honor Award of Excellence in Architecture.
"What we've done is the only way the truck would have ever been touched," Tankersley said, referencing the truck's importance to the family. "It's for a good cause and we were honored to do it."
Erlanger hospital has played a big role in his family. His grandmother attended Erlanger nursing college, and his grandfather was hospitalized at Erlanger after getting into an accident in the tow truck. The family connection to the facility is one of the reasons Tankersley agreed to the project.
The other reason was simply knowing that the kids were going to get a smile out of it, he said.
"It was probably one of the toughest things I've ever tackled," said Tankersley. "It was a large task, but it was fun and we had a good time."
The wrecker was placed in the children's outpatient surgery center in mid-May.