A black 1951 Dodge Coronet parked at the Salute to our Veterans Car Show in Cascade Park is owned by a veteran who was in two wars.
One was a 14-month stint in the Army in Vietnam. The other was his own personal battle with cancer, caused by Agent Orange.
Charles "Chip" Chamberlain, 71, of Neshannock Township, is a survivor of both. He has been cancer free for three years.
Chamberlain, who worked for 31 years at local car dealerships and is now retired, owned one of about 30 cars and motorcycles that were stationed in the park yesterday to benefit veterans.
The car and bike show, sponsored by the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 315 Ladies Auxiliary, featured food, a basket raffle and craft vendors sprinkled throughout the scenic recreation grove.
Chamberlain, underwent extensive cancer treatments including stem cell replacement in UPMC Shadyside Hospital in Pittsburgh, sat under a tree by his cherished car yesterday, relating its unusual history.
The car had been owned by a car frame welder, the late Willis L. "Woody" Slater, who lived on Euclid Avenue. The vehicle sat in Slater's garage for 46 years. Chamberlain had offered to buy it from him in the past, but Slater refused. He kept asking, and eventually, Slater parted with it. He died in 2017 at the age of 91.
"The car had a 1970 plate," he said, "and two of the tires were flat. It sat in the garage all that time."
"It drives like a new one, for a 1951," Chamberlain said, noting that it turned over 70,000 miles just Saturday.
Chamberlain served in Vietnam in 1968 and 1969. His brother was in the Marines, and both were in the same city of Phu Bai, Vietnam.
Chamberlain said he tried to enlist in the Navy, but wasn't admitted because of cardiac health reasons. Shortly thereafter, he was drafted into the Army and passed his physical. The late Congressman Frank Clark of Bessemer called him in Fort Jackson, South Carolina, and offered him an out, but Chamberlain declined. He wanted to serve, he said.
Six months later, Clark called him again in Vietnam on a HAM radio, offering him another chance to get out.
"He told me to come home, because my brother was there," Chamberlain said. That's when he learned his brother was stationed in the same town as a First Marine helicopter pilot.
"We were stationed a mile away from each other," he said. He drove to see him at his base on Christmas Day. He could smell the turkey cooking, but he was called away before he could partake in it.
"I never had one hot meal in Vietnam," he said.
Chamberlain worked most of his life for Al Sweet Toyota and later Preston Motors, where he was service manager, then later a car salesman. Before that he worked five years at Reynolds Funeral Home, and 10 years for McClean's Trucking.
He has been a member of the Neshannock Township Fire Department for 51 years.
In addition to the Dodge, he owns a 1999 Grand Prix and a 1975 Corvette.
Elsewhere in the park, Ken Bair and Doris Nocera sat with their two cars, his blue 1957 Bel Air that he restored, and Nocera's silver 1966 Mustang Convertible that he restored for her.
Bair, 62, has done auto body work all of his life and was the body shop manager at G. O. Crivelli's for many years, having retired last year. Now retired, he still runs a part-time body shop at his home where he works on their cars and for a limited number of customers.
Although Bair is not a veteran, he and Nocera go wherever they can to support the veterans, he said. They also participate in motorcycle rides for veterans, he said.
The Cascade Park event was organized by Jessica Ealy, president, of the VFW Post auxiliary.
"We were looking for a fundraiser," she said. "All the money we raise from this will go to help veterans in our area."
The money also goes to support programs at the veterans hospital in Butler.
The auxiliary also donates to various programs such as the Pennsylvania Wounded Warriors, a children's home and social and mental health programs at the Butler veterans hospital.
Ealy joined the auxiliary because her grandfather, Dale Ealy Sr., was a veteran, as was her father, Dale Jr.
A lot of her aunts and uncles also served in the military, "so it's close to my heart," she said.
"My mom and dad were always involved with the American Legion," she explained. "That led me to where I am today with the VFW."
The auxiliary members felt the car and bike should would be a family event where families could go and not have to pay admission.
A $2 per car parking fee was collected by the team members of the Shenango Township baseball league.
"We're trying to get into the community as much as possible to involve more people," Ealy said.