If it’s built after 1915, I’m not interested. – Jerry Toews
Jerry Toews (Taves) wandered down the alleys as a kid in Nickerson, Kansas, digging through 55-gallon burn barrels looking for things like old clocks to fix. Now, as a retired band instructor, he wanders all over the U.S. and Canada looking for things to fix. And, man, does he come up with some doozies. One tractor is twelve feet tall and weighs twenty-five-thousand-pounds!
I finally made it to a photography outing arranged by Susan Bartel for a local group, the Fourth Tuesday Photography Club. A couple of dozen photographers visited the farm of Jerry and Leann where we traveled in time machines to capture images of yesteryear hidden in the barns on their property.
“I love to find things that don’t work, then figure out how I can make them work.” Jerry said with a chuckle. “I moved up to bicycles, then, when in high school, started working on old cars. I like things before 1915. Nowadays, I lift up the hood on a car and say, What is that? You can’t even see the ground.” Jerry says most things with a chuckle.
When I asked him how he ended up being a band teacher he said, “I love music and I really don’t find it so different. I figure music out just like I do mechanical stuff; I’ll listen to the band and see what’s wrong, then I fix it.”
Jerry taught band for 30 years; 23 of which were in Goessel, Kansas. He says he’ll probably stay there since he has too much junk to move. But it’s not junk; not now anyway. Most of the things he restores came to him in pieces and parts and he’s put it back together again. One photographer asked another, “How does he ship these things back to here once he finds them?” The other responded, “In boxes, just like he found them.” Jerry turns one man’s junk into incredible treasures.
In addition, Jerry figured out a way to turn his passion into helping others. He repairs old cars and tractors for auctioning off at the annual Mennonite Relief Sale in Hutchinson, Kansas, each year. I especially admire people who turn their hobbies into a way to feed the hungry.
I wonder how many of Jerry’s students understand what a gem they had on their hands in this unassuming man whose photograph should in the dictionary beside the words curious and genius.
Jerry’s fixed a lot of broken things through the years and I bet if you asked a few of his students, he fixed a few broken people along the way, too.
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