When Jeanne Auman joins the cavalcade of brawny engines and flashy chrome that’s the heart of the annual Bellefonte Cruise, she’ll drive by herself.
But she might not be alone.
Auman, a mail carrier and Centre Daily Times mailroom employee from Pleasant Gap, will roll up and down Bellefonte’s hilly streets June 14 in her 1973 Chevrolet Camaro LT, her 30th anniversary gift.
Her husband, Lenny Auman, bought the car and restored it for her last year. She had a Camaro before, a 1976 model, for about 10 years, but as these things happen, the miles took their toll and she ended up selling her classic ride.
The crush still burned, though. She pined for another Camaro in the driveway.
Her husband took note.
A car guy, he found one in Tyrone, took it home and surprised his wife — sort of.
“Well, not a total surprise,” said Auman, who made no secret of her thing for Camaros but tried to remain practical. “I kept telling him we couldn’t afford one, but he wanted me to have it.”
But Lenny Auman wasn’t done.
He didn’t just give her a Camaro; he essentially built one for her.
In addition to restoring the body and the black interior, he covered the tired yellow paint in sparkling blue with racing stripes — totally in keeping with a painter by trade who made his living transforming rooms and homes for more than 35 years.
Like that, he produced a mean machine, the answer to her dreams.
They drove it to the cruise, another car show like all the others the couple enjoyed over 30 years of marriage. She’ll return a widow.
In November, Lenny Auman died of a heart attack in his garage after work, tinkering as usual under a hood or a chassis.
“He had several old pickup trucks and a couple of different things,” his wife said. “He was always working on cars.”
Though she knows it’ll be bittersweet, she decided to drive the Camaro again in his memory.
“It was one of his passions, and we liked to go around to different car shows around the county,” she said. “It was just something he loved to do and we loved to do together. I just wanted to continue doing it.”
She’ll have company at the show. Loren Auman, the elder of her two sons, will bring his 1966 Chevy Nova.
“He’s a Nova guy,” his mother said. “My husband helped him work on his cars through the years.”
But she wouldn’t be surprised if she has another companion. Perhaps Lenny Auman will make the cruise after all.
Riding in a car rejuvenated by love, she’ll think of him. His body rests at Centre County Memorial Park, but she’s sure his spirit will be looking down, maybe joining her as she cruises before the crowds lining Allegheny Street.
And if his presence happens to be riding shotgun, it’ll only be appropriate.
“Whenever we took it out together, he always let me drive,” she said. “It was my car.”