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Friday, February 16, 2018

#1 All-Time Corvette Passenger

I've owned six Corvettes over a period of 50+ years.  Of all the people that have shared a Corvette ride with me over all those years, who do you suppose is the person who has been a passenger in my Corvettes for more hours than any other?

Answer:  My Mom!

Born and raised in Union South Carolina, Helen Ruth Brakefield moved to the Washington DC area right after high school graduation during World War II.  She worked in an aircraft factory (Rosie the Riveter style) making machine gun turrets for bombers.  One of her factory friends, Marguerite Thomas talked about her brother who was a Marine serving in the Pacific.  

After the war Marguerite made the introduction and before long Helen married Clinton "Tommy" Thomas and settled into the Suburban Washington area.  They would remain husband and wife their entire lives.

Four kids later, we were living on Yucca Street in Beltsville, home of the best Shell Station ever. 

By the time all the kids were in school, Mom got a job in the new industry of computers as a keypunch operator at The American Research Bureau, where she worked with Johnny Bradley's Mom and (my future friend) Sharon Cox.

It was through Mom's friendship with Sharon that I got introduced to Corvettes when Sharon,who owned a blue Corvair, came to our house with her boyfriend, Jim McEvoy, in his Honduras Maroon 1962 Fuelie Corvette.  My first Corvette ride left a lasting impression.

Before long Mom got a big promotion by taking a job at the University of Maryland in the Key Punch Department.  She worked hard and was promoted to the Accounts Payable Department, and eventually was promoted to manager.  A few years later I enrolled as a freshman at Maryland and bought my first Corvette, a 1959 beauty.

Mom and I worked out a deal.  I would drive us to Campus and she would let me park in her primo Faculty/Staff parking space in the parking lot next to Turner Hall.  Everyone in College Park knows Turner Hall as the place on Route 1 where you went for yummy ice cream produced by the University of Maryland Dairy.  Parking the Corvette there was way safer than in the student commuter lots, and the walk to Mom's office in the Main Administration Building and to my classes was much closer than the massive, sprawling parking lots.

Sometimes we would get an ice cream cone before starting our ride back to Beltsville.

We commuted back and forth every day for about four years.  Mom's computer experience rubbed off on me and launched my career.  Mom never complained about the Corvette, its loud exhausts, the stiff ride, or the lack of air conditioning in the Summer.  I can't count up all the hours that we spent together in the little Corvette, but it was a bunch.

After graduation I moved out of the house and our commuting routine was over.  Six years later I moved to California.  By then Mom had gotten her driver's license and bought her own car so she didn't need Corvette commuting services anymore.

Mom has been in declining health for the past few years, so I made it a priority to go see her whenever I was in the DC area.  Nan, my sister Barbara, and my brother Pat would join us.

One of our favorite things to do was to get an ice cream cone.

Mom passed away tonight.  I'm sure they have ice cream cones in Heaven.

Love you Mom!  Thanks for sharing all those rides in the Corvette with me!


  1. Mom's are special and your warm tribute to yours shows she was extra special. Our deepest sympathies for your loss.

    Thomas and Chris and Lou

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  2. My heart goes out to you and your family. May she rest in peace.


  3. To My Buddy Cary......
    I will always remember the good times working with your Mom First at ARB (My First job out of High School) and then at the University of Maryland...Many wonderful Times with Your Mom and You.....I remember vividly that phone call on Thanksgiving years back when I thought you were a telemarketer until you said ."I have a picture in my hand of a Blue Corvair head to head with a '62 Corvette Fuelie" and then I remembered.....You said you had been looking for me for 20 years....Well I'm still Happy that you found me and were kind enough to put me in THE BELTSVILLE SHELL BOOK that you wrote.....Always Loved You and Your Mom.....So Rest Well Helen and don't eat too many ice cream cones.....

  4. What a wonderful tribute.Your mom was very special to me. When I graduated from HP and was getting ready to start UM in the fall of '81, she got me a summer job working with her as a fileclerk in AP. I cherish those days working with her. You are all in my thoughts.

  5. My very deepest sympathies for your loss. It sounds like she lived a wonderful and full life, made rich by her family.

  6. I am sorry to hear about your mom. She was,as I said on the blog site, one of the unsung hero's of WWII, and the mother of one of the best people I've ever known. Call me if you get to town so we can get together! Malcolm

  7. My deepest sympathy to you and your family. I know she had a deep impact on your lives . As she did mine . She will be truly missed. RIP Helen

  8. Cary, so sorry about the Loss of your Mom. What Wonderful memories and a great Story about who had the most rides! My Condolences,
    Tom Corso

  9. Such a wonderful tribute to your mom. What an awesome memory you two created by having so many commutes in an awesome ride. That was perfect. Like most mothers I am guessing she liked being with her son more than being in a Corvette, but that was a definite benefit. You were blessed to have each other. Thanks for sharing this special memory. Don Trail

  10. Sorry for your loss. Good to see that you had her for so many years. My mom did some keypunching at ARB when I was little. Wonder if they overlapped. Thanks for the Beltsville Shell book I got from you at High Point's 50th anniversary. May your mother rest in peace.
    John Propts

  11. My grandmother, who passed away a few weeks ago, also worked in an aircraft factory during the war. My grandfather did not want her working there - but she did anyway. Then one day a news paper reported snapped a picture of her straddling a b-52 bomb penciling a decal. That picture showed up on the cover of the Stars and Stripes and my grandfather found out about her job when he saw her picture posted in every bunk house in his division!

    Sad to see this generation leave us. Your corvette story reminds me of taking long distance trips with my mother in her small 2-seater.

    Thanks for sharing and now I will go get an ice cream cone in honor of Helen!