Why Reunions Matter

We had a good turnout at the 2011 Memphis Rodders Reunion. Together, we generated a much appreciated donation to the Shriner's Burn Transportation Fund, and as always it was great to see so many old friends together once again. After all, the "reunion" part of these reunions, are the primary reason they take place. Yet sadly, we missed some that we always expect to see from year to year. The passing of three former members of the Memphis Rodders within just a few months of one another serves as a reminder of why these reunion really matter.

Two of the honorees from the 2010 reunion passed away this year, leaving some heavy hearts among their friends, and closing a direct connection to the some colorful history with the Memphis Rodders. On October 30th 2011, we lost Jake Moran (above), who spent many years as an active member of the Memphis Rodders, cutting his teeth on street driven hot rods, and full competition drag cars before becoming an integral cog in the fledgling National Street Rod Association in 1970. He served the NSRA as it's National Field Director since 1984, and as the NSRA 's Southeast divisional director before he retired. Jake spent a long while battling cancer, but still managed to attend several events per year, including the NSRA Nationals in Louisville KY this past summer. News of his passing affected many beyond the Memphis area, as many internet message boards reflected on his passing with fondness for a man that everyone remembers as a smiling, helpful, and enthusiastic throughout his days with the NSRA. We're going to miss Jake & his familiar but uncommon Lincoln Zephyr coupe. (shown in it's mid 70's silver-blue look in the photo below)

As previously noted on this site, we lost Arnold Bonner this past September. Arnold was legend among local drag racers, as he raced his black 1940 Chevrolet throughout the southeast. He was a fixture a Lakeland Raceway, racing there every year that the track was in operation, and he was also a fixture at the Memphis Rodders Reunion. Arnold helped us fill in some history of the Memphis Rodders as a 2011 honoree serving on the panel that shed some light on the early history of the club. That's Arnold on the right, in the photo shown above, with Larry Nolan during the 2006 reunion. Check the previous post for more details about Arnold's tenure as a Memphis Rodder with a passion for drag racing, and note that we missed Arnold at the reunion this year just as we will for all the years to come.

Also, on July 16th 2011, we lost another long-time Memphis Rodder when AJ Lancaster passed away. AJ was a passionate drag racer who competed for years in the doorslammer classes in everything from a Willys coupe, to a 57 Chevy stocker, a Super Stock, Hemi powered, Dodge Coronet, and even a rare 68 Yenko Camaro (above). AJ was among the first to compete in the then newly established Pro Stock class with this car. AJ's Camaro even made a brief appearance in the cult classic Two Lane Blacktop. When AJ hung up his helmet in the early 70's he was through with racing for real. He never came back for more later despite the addictive nature of competition. The Yenko was his last race car and is seen above in a well-worn photo that shows the car in competition at Lakeland Raceway. Fittingly, the Camaro was eventually restored to showroom fresh condition, and was shown as a display car at the 2011 reunion.

So make a point of attending the reunion whenever possible, because not being present could be a lost opportunity to visit an old friend one last time. Of course, that's includes all of us, from former Memphis Rodders members to those of us simply interested in the history in the club. It's a good reason to socialize, and it's never more apparent than when we lose someone who we always looked upon as a part of this big brotherhood we call hot rodding.