Lonnie Deweese

Lonnie and Marilyn Deweese were among the first of our Jeep friends and they found us.  They had read the early pages of FarmJeep.com and made a pilgrimage to see us and to gather some information on our Newgren lift. Once we met it was clear that these were people with a passion for the history that we want to preserve.

Lonnie and Marilyn are responsible for spreading the Farm Jeep story to thousands of individuals.  They freely share their knowledge and their love and passion for the little Jeep’s role in agricultural history.   Lonnie’s and Marilyn’s names appear several times in our writings.  There have been hundreds of interactions over the years (phone calls, visits and conversations at shows)  that haven’t been recorded but are an important part of our own story.

The $200 Jeep by Marilyn Deweese

Lonnie’s jeep story began when he was 9 years old. The previous year his father had passed away. His parents were quite old when he was born and his uncles would take him home with them to help work their farms.  He was always large and strong for his age.  His uncle, Presley Monroe used him the most and his farm was located on the ridge and extended to the valley below.  He purchased a 1948 CJ2A with a belt pulley.  He used the jeep for cutting wood and sawing lumber.  He also checked livestock daily in the valley and worked their tobacco crop there.  Lonnie’s first time driving this jeep when he was 9 yrs old started a love affair that still is his passion today.  It was always in 4WD and 1st gear going down and coming back up from the valley.  He volunteered every day to check on the livestock and run any errands just to drive that jeep.  Did I forget to mention Lonnie’s only wage for working from daylight to dark was all he could eat!

When Lonnie turned 16 and got his driver’s license, he purchased his first vehicle. You guessed it, it was a 1948 CJ2A for $200.  This proud new owner drove off the lot toward the feed mill his cousins owned and couldn’t wait to show off his first vehicle.  He drove 1/2 mile down the road and it died on him.  After pulling it to the mill, everyone jumped in the help get it running again.  After getting it running it was hard to put in 4WD, Lonnie finally discovered the problem.  All the tires on the jeep were a mismatched set of tires, different kind and sizes.  This was throwing off the 4WD. Lonnie went looking for a new set of jeep tires  but needless to say none were available.  However, he went to Bale Tire and purchased a full set of mud grips 600×16 and drove this jeep everywhere for a couple of years until he left for Viet Nam.

After returning home, he decided to put a V8 in it. He started gathering parts slowly, however, in the mean time the jeep had been taken apart and placed on a farm wagon covered with an Army tarp. Thirty years later the parts were still in the barn on the wagon and the body sat by a sink hole on the farm for those 30 yrs before the jeep was put back together and restored.  

Chapter 2

After returning home from the war everything had changed. All his friends were married and some with kids. He had decided when he was overseas he would get his CDL’s as soon as he got back and begin a truckers life. His dream had always been traveling and seeing as much of the country as possible,  While in high school he would watch trucks going up and down Hwy 31W and daydream of making a career of that someday.  In 1970 at the age of 23, he began driving for Overnite Transportation and never looked back.

In February 2003, Lonnie retired from Overnite and began full time cattle farming. On September 19, 2003 Lonnie had to be rushed to the ER. After becoming stable he was taken to St Thomas Hospital in Nashville, TN. He was diagnosed with double aneurysms on the right cerebral artery of his brain,  On November 14, a Thursday morning at 6:00am he had surgery and on Sunday afternoon Lonnie walked out of the hospital headed home.  Other than balance, dexterity, headaches and short term memory, Lonnie was known as “The Miracle Man”. 

After four months, Lonnie was able to ride in the golf cart over the farm with me to check on the cows and new calves. One day we passed by the old ’48 jeep body and frame and I asked him if he was ever going to restore it, if not he needed to sell it!  The next morning his brother-in-law came by and about 30 minutes later I heard the tractor come to the garage. Looked outside and there was the jeep on the forks of the front end loader.  After setting it in the shop, the next thing the wagon was brought from the barn with all the parts, motor, transmission, etc, You get what I’m saying. As you can guess, the ’48 restoration began.

Lonnie could tell his brother-in-law where every part, nut, bolt, hinge  went on this jeep, but he had a dexterity problem with his hands and could only advise. Between the two of them they had this ’48 put back together and running in September 2004. After follow-up with the Neurosurgeon, like another miracle Lonnie’s memory had become normal, his dexterity had returned better than ever.  Dr. Singer, his surgeon said this jeep restoration was the best therapy he could have possibly gotten. We owed so much to this little ’48 Willys.

Lonnie had been searching for parts while working on the jeep and just by chance saw a photo of Lundall Morris and his jeep. Under the caption there was a phone number.  He called Lundall and they talked over 3 hours the first time. A special friendship began with these two jeep lovers. Lundall told Lonnie about the Midwest Willy’s Jeep Reunion and invited us to his home for parts Lonnie needed and to the next reunion. He also told Lonnie about a friend, Dave Bengtson from Pelican Rapids, MN who had a jeep for sale with attachments and gave him Dave’s number. Lonnie called Dave and three days later we were on our way to MN. We met Dave and Glenda, both the nicest folks you could meet and needless to say, we headed back to KY with a ’48 Willys, K&K Side Mower and Sterling Cutoff Saw.

Our first Midwest Willys Reunion was in May 2005 in Springfield,IL. We met many wonderful jeep folks and life long friendships began. 

To be continued..