• Last modified 904 days ago (Dec. 10, 2020)


Best gift ever: priceless piece of her father

Staff writer

JoLonna Barnes got an early and unexpected Christmas gift this year when a family friend showed up with a piece of her late father’s soul.

The vehicle that arrived on a trailer in her driveway days before Thanksgiving was a horseless carriage J.B. Bloomer built himself.

Barnes was stunned and immediately offered payment, but the man refused.

The gift was just what Barnes needed to get her in the holiday spirit.

“When he dropped it off, I said ‘I am going to decorate it for Christmas. I am going to make it look like Santa’s sleigh.’ And by golly I did,” she said.

Her father probably would have approved of Barnes’ gesture.

J.B. Bloomer was never happier then when he was building things. He owned and operated J.B.’s Repair and was a mechanic and millwright at Farmers’ Grain Coop until he retired.

Bloomer spotted a horseless carriage in a magazine and decided he needed to build one. He roped Barnes’ husband, Erik into doing the woodwork.

“He was a good mechanic, but when it came to woodworking, he just didn’t have the patience to make it look pretty,” she said. “He would just kind of throw it together so it was functional.”

The two went to work on the old car and made a great team.

The finished horseless carriage ran like a top and quickly became a hit at area parades including Peabody’s annual Fourth of July celebration.

Barnes said the carriage is a testament to her father’s brains, and grit.

“Dad probably had everything he needed to put on it lying around the house,” she said.

But the family had to let go of the vehicle when her father died in December 2012.

Barnes knew the man who bought it at an auction would care for it, which soothed the sting — somewhat.

“It was very dear to us,” she said. “We are so glad that it was him that bought it.”

About a month ago, Barnes was having breakfast with her husband and was caught off guard when the man approached her table after so many years.

“I have something I want to give you,” he said. “I want to give you the horseless carriage of your dad’s back.”

The family friend thought he would carry on like Bloomer and tinker with it, but his life hadn’t slowed down enough to let him.

Now the carriage proudly sits in Barnes’ front yard decked out for holidays.

She and her husband are planning to build the carriage its own shed.

In the meantime, Barnes says she can’t wait until she is able to have grandchildren pose for pictures sitting in it — another heirloom she will treasure.

“It’s like a piece of him is still around,” she said.

Last modified Dec. 10, 2020