An ‘unbelievable’ car reunion

Moorhead man reunited with car after 45 years

Roger Monson is a car guy. He’s a member of the Valley Vintage Car Club in Fargo-Moorhead. He understands that every car, like every person, has a story. There’s one car story in particular that really grabs at Roger’s heart strings and that’s the story of his parent’s 1963 Chevy Impala SS. And it is a story with a happy reunion.

Roger and Kathy Monson’s 50th wedding anniversary was held at Shoreham Chapel, at Lake Melissa, Minnesota. During the celebration, the two took a picture with their 1963 Chevy Impala SS, the same car they rode in on their wedding day. The couple also drove the car to their prom, homecoming and honeymoon. Photo by Kari Robak

Roger’s parents bought a 1963 Chevy used in 1965. Back in the day, the car was considered to be rather sporty. Despite that fact, his parents used the car as their every day car. Roger laughed as he recalled a story about his mother buying groceries.

“Every time my mom would buy groceries, the young man who carried out her groceries would say, ‘Remember if you ever sell this car, let me know, because I’d like to buy it.’”

Roger’s parents were farmers and their farm was located between Finley, N.D. and Cooperstown, N.D. In the fall of 1969 -- after owning the car for years -- they traded the car in for a Buick. The decision to trade the car was one that Roger’s dad always regretted.

Roger has many fond memories of the car. It was the car that he drove as a teenager. And when Roger and his wife, Kathy, got married on Aug. 19, 1967, they used the car at their wedding.

“I guess we decided to use it because it was a sporty car,” he said. “It looked good in pictures and there wasn’t much sexy about our 1963 Rambler four door sedan.”

The couple also used his parent’s car on their honeymoon trip to the Black Hills in South Dakota. The car had a standard transmission, no power steering, no power brakes and it had a clutch.

“There we were driving the car up and down the Black Hills, but we were young and didn’t think much of it,” he said.

The car also didn’t have air conditioning, which became a factor as temperatures cleared 100 degrees in the Black Hills.

“Oh, it was SO hot!” said Kathy.

Roger and Kathy Monson on their wedding day, Aug. 19, 1967, with the 1963 Chevy Impala SS. Contributed photo

After finishing their last year of college Roger and Kathy lived in Topeka, Kansas, where Roger served a little over three years in the U. S. Air Force. They decided to relocate back to Finley, as Kathy’s parents lived there and Roger’s parents were still on the farm. By the time they returned to Finley, his parents had traded the Chevy Impala.

Roger understood his father’s regret about trading the car and he soon started trying to find the car for his dad. But the search was a challenge since he didn’t have the car’s serial number.

He learned later that the car stayed in the Finley area for a while. Both Orlando Wigen and Ray Walker owned the vehicle. They both had teenaged sons who drove the car. One of those teenagers to drive the car was Ray Walker’s son, Russell.

The car was later sold to an airman by the name of Terrace Jacobson, who was stationed at the radar sites in Finley. A registration card shows that he registered the car on March 25, 1974. At some point in 1974, Jacobson was reassigned and he sold the car.

Keep in mind Roger had been searching and searching for this car and kept reaching a dead end, due to lack of the serial number. As part of his search, he reached out to Russell Walker, one of the men who drove the car as a teenager. He was the one who informed Roger that the airman had sold the car to a salvage yard in Grand Forks, N.D.

“I was so disappointed, because I desperately wanted to find the car for my dad,” said Roger, who believed the car was gone and the search was over.

The before and after photos of 1963 Chevy Impala’s interior after it was restored by Mark Burns, who was the last person to own the vehicle before selling it back to the Monson family. Contributed photos

What Roger didn’t know for years later was the car was purchased from the salvage yard by Grand Forks resident, James Linscheid. Roger’s car information shows that Linscheid registered it on Oct. 3, 1974. Roger later learned that he bought it with the intent of restoring it.

“If that man (Linscheid) would not have bought the car from the salvage yard, it most likely would have been stripped of its parts and eventually crushed for scrap metal,” said Roger.

Details are scarce as to when it happened, but the car had yet another owner, Dennis Boem. Dennis sold the car about 10 years

ago to Mark Burns, of Grafton, N.D. Burns too had plans to restore the car.

As Mark was going through the car, he found registration cards for past owners. He decided to do a little digging of his own, searching for the car’s history. As it would turn out though, one registration card was missing. It was for K. A. Monson, Roger’s dad. Mark tried to find Ray Walker. He couldn’t find his name in the phone book, but he did find a number for Russell Walker. This is where the story takes a major turn.

Walker knew Roger had been searching for the car. Walker was responsible for connecting Mark with Roger. Russell informed Roger that Mark had the car and planned to restore it.

“I was elated! I could hardly believe the car was still around,” said Roger.

By the time Mark and Roger were connected, Roger and Kathy were living in Fargo. They moved to Fargo in 2011, after spending over 40 years living in Finley. Mark wondered how Roger found him and Roger told him his story, explaining that he’d received a call from Russell. When Mark bought the car, it was part of a car collection that Dennis Boem had taken with him to Marion, Iowa. By the time Roger visited Mark in Grafton, Mark had the car in Grafton and was slowly restoring it.

“One day this man shows up and said, I am Roger Monson,” said Mark. “He told me that he and his wife used the car for prom, homecoming, their wedding and honeymoon.”

Mark had a plan to restore the car and planned to keep it. He had help from his friend, Alex Ismailov.

“Alex agreed to help me as long as we used only the best materials,” said Mark. “We decided we would make it more of a show car. The car had all its original parts.”

Mark worked on the car slowly and parked it for about four years.

“Just the paint alone was $800 a gallon,” he said. “The car’s original color was a polomar red and that’s what we used.”

Roger made trips to Grafton to see the progress on the restoration, each time wondering if Mark was willing to sell the car.

“I always promised Roger if he decided to sell it, I’d contact him first,” said Mark. Mark and Alex completed the car. He entered it in car show at Grand Forks, Grafton and Park River.

“The car took the people choice award in all three shows,” said Mark. “Roger was at the one in Grand Forks.”

It was sometime in 2011 when Mark decided he would seek out his dream car, a 1969 Chevy Camaro, replacing the 1979 Camaro he had previously purchased. He contacted Roger and told him he was ready to sell the car.

The Chevy Impala SS as it looked right after it was restored by Mark Burns. The vehicle was entered into three car shows and received the people’s choice award at all three shows. Contributed photo

“When I heard his stories, I knew right away if I ever planned to sell the car, I would sell it to him,” said Mark. “It was the right thing to do. The car didn’t have the sentimental value to me that it did to Roger.”

Through this process Mark and Roger found out the car was fairly rare.

“It is one of only 200 like it. It has a 283 motor and a 3 speed transmission,” said Mark. “I will never forget it. I had agreed to sell the car to Roger. One day I hear all this noise outside and he’s across the street with a truck and trailer. He was ready to get his car.”

“The car has great emotional value to me. I am so thankful I was connected with Mark Burns and that I was eventually offered a chance to buy the car.”

Roger is also grateful to Mark for the work he did on the car.

“He did a beautiful job.” said Roger, noting his children enjoy seeing the car and hearing the whole history of the car. The icing on the cake -- he and his wife were able to use the car for their 50th wedding anniversary. They had pictures taken with the car at Shoreham Chapel at Lake Melissa in Minnesota.

“I did the math and I figure it was about 45 years from the time my dad traded the car, until I purchased it and it was back in the family,” said Roger.

He noted his one regret was that his dad didn’t get to see the car again, but said, “He’d be so pleased to know we have it back in the family.”

What his dad would say if he knew about the car’s journey and that Roger owned it.

“My dad would say, ‘unbelievable!’”

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