Heart of Gold

By Bill Rautenstrauch, The Observer April 04, 2012 01:32 pm

Jim McClure of Legacy Ford (left) has been donating his own time to help stranded motorists Robert and Marion Killans resume their journey to California. The elderly couple have been staying in their motor home at the Walmart parking lot the past week. McClure has been assisting with repairs. BILL RAUTENSTRAUCH / The Observer
Jim McClure of Legacy Ford (left) has been donating his own time to help stranded motorists Robert and Marion Killans resume their journey to California. The elderly couple have been staying in their motor home at the Walmart parking lot the past week. McClure has been assisting with repairs. BILL RAUTENSTRAUCH / The Observer

Parts and service worker at local Ford dealer comes to aid of pair after their Chevrolet RV breaks down and leaves them stranded at Island City Walmart 

Sojourners Robert and Marion Killans found out recently that Union County isn’t the worst place in the world to end up in times of trouble.

The elderly couple set out from Sweet Home on March 26, bound for Yucca Valley in California by way of Burley, Idaho. They were traveling in an older Chevrolet motor home and hauling a Grand Torino automobile, a gift for the daughter of a friend in Burley.

The couple was excited to be headed for California, where Bob planned to help out in his brother’s tool manufacturing business. But things went bad at Biggs Junction, that little town east of The Dalles that caters to trade coming off Interstate 84.

Near Biggs that Monday, the motor home’s universal joint gave up the ghost. There was no place to get it fixed there, and the Killans did the only thing they could do. They took advantage of their AAA highway assistance plan. 

They wanted to go forward, not back, and the AAA tow was good for 100 miles. That got them La Grande.

On March 27, the tow truck driver dropped the whole package — the Killans, their dog, their motor home and their car — at the edge of the Walmart parking lot in Island City.

From there, it was all up to the Killans to solve their problem and get back on the road. 

Complications set in. A major problem was that they couldn’t find a dealer that would deliver parts to Walmart. 

They ordered the universal joint and an alternator from a store in La Grande, then set out on a long walk to pick up their goods. Once they had them, Robert, 71 and wearing a pacemaker, would try to do the repairs himself. 

Providentially, their route took them past Legacy Ford on Island Avenue and to a parts and service man with a heart of gold.

“I said, ‘let’s go in there and see if there’s anything they can do for us,’” Robert recalled. “I think Marion thought I was crazy, asking a Ford dealer to help with a Chevy product.”

The Killans told their story to Legacy employee Jim McClure, a man who says he believes in paying things forward.

McClure listened and compassion stirred his heart. He made up his mind to help any way he could.

“They just seemed like good people, and helping is what we’re supposed to do for each other. That’s the way my dad raised me,” he said.

With the blessing of Legacy General Manager Tony Grover, McClure had the parts sent to the dealership. Since then, on his own time, he’s been helping Robert with the repairs. 

Marion, 70, said that’s taken a big load off her mind.

“Robert’s got heart problems and it scares me all the time with him crawling around under the rig. It’s pretty scary when you’re our age,” she said.

Marion said McClure has shown kindness in many other ways. He gave the Killans his personal phone number and told them to call if there was anything at all they needed. 

McClure’s wife Ruth got into the act as well, sending home-canned peaches and jam.

Tuesday marked a full week stranded in the parking lot for the Killans.

Monday evening, McClure went to the motor home again, hoping to put final touches on the repairs and get the Killans on the road.

Unfortunately, the motor home wouldn’t start. Electrical and other problems have complicated the issue.

But McClure isn’t giving up. He said if all else fails, the rig will be towed to Legacy for more intensive work.

The Killans would love nothing more than to take to the road again. But in the meantime, they say they’re forever grateful to McClure and Legacy Ford.

“They really went out of their way,” said Robert.

Added his wife, “They’ve just been marvelous.”