By Joanne McDonald
Struggling through the grief of losing a friend, Jack Mulholland has worked round the clock to restore his classic truck for the August 18 memorial charity car and truck show that will bring together the many who loved Jeff McKillop.
It was sometime around 2004 when Jack helped Jeff build his first derby car for the Smithville Fair. “He couldn’t get it running and his mother Wendy called and asked if I could help,” Jack said. “Over the course of the next month we built the derby car and became friends.”
“We knew him for so many years. He was always kind, always laughing. We never knew he was struggling.”
Jeff was a joy to all
who knew him, but they knew little of the pain that led the 31-year-old to take his own life May 18.
When it comes to grief there is no clear road to travel, but the path to the West Niagara Agricultural Centre will be marked by a massive outpouring of support for those needing a voice for mental health and PTSD.
Jack said Jeff’s mom Wendy told him something good has to come out of the tragedy. Devastated by the loss, “her words were that something good has to come out of this …if she can save even one life and help other families.”
Jeff was just a teenager when he met Jack and his wife Colleen. Tears in their eyes, they recalled the enthusiastic super friendly young man who would do anything for anyone. “He had a passion for people, for automobiles, dogs, horses…..”
Jeff was respected and much loved in the tow trucking industry where he became a veteran driver and earned the name ‘Jspec Tows’ for his professional attention to every vehicle.
“He was the friendliest tow truck driver you could imagine and when a vehicle was tied down on a flat bed, it had to pass Jeff’s inspection for safety. He cared that much not only for the vehicles, but for the people,” Jack said. “The effort he put into his work, into tying the vehicle to the tow truck in order that it was safe, showed just a portion of the love he had for people whether he knew them or not.”
Soon headed for the August 18 show, the 1985 Chev Short Box Pro Street is the first vehicle that Jack has restored. It started out as a 10-year project in May, 2011 but went into high gear after May 18, with the decision to plan the memorial charity event.
“Jeff saw the Short Box the last time he was here in April, a month before his passing,” Jack said. An ongoing project, it was intended to be a cruise vehicle. “but I was never going to go to a car show, it was put together in the last month just for the fact it is for the Jeff McKillop Memorial.”
Sharing a note he had written in preparation for the show, Jack read: “This vehicle was originally purchased as a tow vehicle for demolition derby cars. The last demolition derby car it towed was car 7 1/2 driven by Jeff McKillop who won his heat in 2007. It was retired in 2012 to begin its transformation. Due to the passing of Jeff, although it’s incomplete, the transformation process was put into high gear in order to be here in his honour.”
Jeff’s first winning car derby, the number 71/2, is now affiliated with the car show trophies dedicated in his memory.
Sitting in Jeff’s sister Jennifer’s living room, making plans for the memorial show, Jack noticed a collage of framed photos from the funeral and realized just how much their lives were intertwined. There was Jeff, posing with his derby car, and in the background of the photo, Jack’s parents and the trailer and truck that had towed Jeff to derby so many times.
Jeff was a treasure to so many, the much loved son of Peter and Wendy and the beloved brother of Jennifer and Megan.
Proceeds from the memorial truck and car show will go to Pathstone Mental Health, which works to strengthen the quality of life for families across Niagara who are dealing with mental health challenges.
The Jeff McKillop Memorial Charity Car & Truck Show will be held Saturday, Aug. 18, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the West Niagara Agricultural Centre, 7420 Mud. St. W., West Lincoln. The charity event is set to raise money and support for mental health and PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) awareness.
The event includes a full day with the car and truck show, trophies, live music with country singer Brad Battle, ‘Touch a Truck’ ‘Smash a Car’, lots of good food and vendors. The $10 admission fee per car includes a raffle ticket.