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This Truck Lifts Spirits


VICTORVILLE — Under the watchful eyes of Sterling Commons staff, residents, community leaders and visitors, a large crane lifted a restored 1939 Ford truck high above the senior facility and gently placed the vehicle into the courtyard.

Wednesday’s “truck lift” happened on the grounds of the Koelsch Communities-owned facility on Lindero Road in Victorville.

Debra Newlin, director for the memory care facility, said the shiny red and black truck that once served the North Dakota Park River Fire Department for more than 20 years was brought to Sterling Commons to help senior residents relive memories of their younger days.

Newlin said the short-term memory of seniors at the facility has begun to fade, with many living in the past. She added that vintage cars, artwork and old music helps remind the seniors of their past.

“I know how important this vehicle is to the residents here at Sterling Commons,” said Victorville Councilwoman Debra Jones, who attended the event with her husband, Gene. “This vintage truck is going to make a lot of seniors very happy.”

Jones told the Daily Press the event was “very personal” to her since she cared for her mother-in-law, Mary Jones, who was placed in a “special home” before her death in 2001.

“I know how much this would have meant to her if she was here,” Jones said. ’Being here today brought back so many special memories of mom.”

In the lobby of the facility, visitors viewed a photo of the classic truck and the original repair manual and other materials that came with the truck in 1939.

Drone operators Steve Heisler and Violet Sarabia shot footage as a crew from Yucca Crane in Apple Valley worked to secure and lift the 3,200-pound vehicle. The truck gently swayed in the breeze before being set down.

After the truck was placed on the ground, Sterling Commons Executive Director Debbie Staggs sat behind the wheel as the vehicle was pushed under a large metal gazebo.

A miscalculation led the crane team to unbolt the legs at one end of the structure so it could be lifted to allow the truck to pass under.

“Watching this truck flying through the air was an amazing sight,” said Staggs. “Our residents love classic cars and they’re going to love sitting in this truck and remembering their younger days.”

Each campus in the network of Koelsch Communities has a vintage vehicle or motorcycle on site for the health and enjoyment of the seniors, Newlin said.

Tracy Stephens, the Transportation Director for Koelsch Communities, told the Daily Press the truck lift was the company’s 16th in the last four years.

“Having a classic vehicle at each one of our Koelsch Communities was the idea of our founder Emmett Koelsch,” Stephens said. “Our first lift was done by helicopter about 20 years ago.”

Emmett Koelsch, who launched the senior housing corporation in the 1950s, died in 2012 at age 91. Koelsch Senior Communities is headquartered in Olympia, Washington and operated by his son Aaron Koelsch.

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