Norma Shaffer just crossed another item off her bucket list.
Yes, she has a list. On paper. And one of the things she wanted to accomplish was a ride in a red convertible for her 84th birthday.
So Goodyear Heights resident Stephanie Foley stepped up to make that goal a reality.
Foley had read Shaffer’s reminiscence about her first car, a 1949 red Plymouth convertible, in the Beacon Journal back in November. “Maybe my bucket list will include a loan for a day, a ride around town in a red convertible for my 84th birthday,” Shaffer wrote.
Foley contacted the newspaper, which got her in touch with Shaffer. After a series of phone calls and weather-related rescheduling, Foley pulled her shiny red PT Cruiser convertible into Shaffer’s North Hill driveway Friday afternoon, two weeks after Shaffer’s Aug. 12 birthday.
By Shaffer’s standards, the experience was tame. She’s already ridden a hot air balloon from Kent to Ravenna, gone parasailing in North Carolina, driven a Soap Box Derby car during a fundraiser and gone zoom lining over Fremont Street in Las Vegas — kind of like zip lining, except you lie face down, like Superman in flight.
“She’s a daredevil,” daughter Kathy Ronca said. “We have to try to keep up with her.”
But this bucket list experience had an emotional component.
Shaffer had loved her first car, which her father helped her buy in the summer of 1952. She was two years out of high school then, working in General Tire’s billing department. She’d already used some of her wages to help her father buy a second family car, and he was making good on his end of their bargain by helping her buy her own vehicle.
She kept the convertible until 1955, after the second of her six children was born. She and her husband, Donald, needed a car better suited to their growing family, she said.
Shaffer still drives, but a blue Ford Focus now, not a red convertible. So the top-down ride in Foley’s car was a treat.
With Ronca in the back seat and another daughter, Becky Shaffer, snapping pictures, the two set off for a ride through Shaffer’s hometown of Tallmadge and then south to Strickland’s for ice cream.
As they drove, Shaffer noted the changes to Tallmadge Circle, where only the Old Town Hall, Tallmadge Church and the Henry Bierce Co. hardware store remain from her childhood. She pointed out Ritchies Sporting Goods, owned by the offspring of a Tallmadge High School classmate. She recounted the fearful ride when her brakes went out on state Route 91 when she was only 18 or 19 and described how she managed to turn onto Newton Street, coast to a stop and call for help from a nearby house.
When Foley pulled into the driveway of First Apostolic Church of Tallmadge, Shaffer gazed at the construction site where her childhood home once stood.
“Our house was right on the edge, where that hole is,” she said with a chuckle. She could still envision the field behind it, with the big tree where she and her siblings used to play.
Farther down the road, as the car approached the Akron Airdock, someone noticed the Goodyear Blimp hovering overhead.
It seemed like an appropriate salute, since there’s one thing Shaffer hasn’t crossed off her bucket list yet.
She’d like to ride in the blimp over Akron.
Mary Beth Breckenridge can be reached at 330-996-3756 or email@example.com. You can also become a fan on Facebook at www.facebook.com/MBBreckABJ, follow her on Twitter @MBBreckABJ.