HOWARDS GROVE, Wis. — U-Haul neighborhood dealer and auto shop owner Jim Harris recently gave a family 600 miles away a new way to keep a son’s memory alive.
Harris, owner of Midwest Customs at 720 S. Wisconsin Drive in Howards Grove, has managed his restoration business for the past six years. In 2014, while watching A&E one night, he saw the tragic story of Taylor Bradford.
“It caught me,” said Harris, who stayed up for hours searching for ways to reach the Bradford family in Nashville, Tenn.
Taylor was murdered in 2007 on the campus of University of Memphis, where he played football. He was shot in an attempted robbery inside his 1979 Lincoln Continental. It was that car, and how much it meant to Taylor’s father, Jim, that pulled at Harris’ heartstrings.
The car was badly damaged, yet Jim kept it because it reminded him of his son. He would sit in it, cry over it and wash it while thinking about Taylor.
“Everything is fixable,” Harris said. “You just have to have the want and will to do it.”
Harris had the want and will to fix the Lincoln for the Bradfords, despite the fact they were perfect strangers.
Sports fans across the nation were introduced to Harris during a featured segment on ESPN’s E:60 entitled “The Gift.” The news magazine show aired the segment on Oct. 20. “The Gift” not only told the story of Taylor’s death and the Lincoln that linked a father and his son, but it focused on the touching act of kindness that brought Harris into the Bradfords’ lives.
Harris didn’t know what to say when he first called Jim, who received countless calls of condolence from strangers every time a show such as A&E’s “The First 48” aired the story of Taylor’s death. But Harris eventually found the right words to get his feelings – and his offer – across. Arrangements were made.
Harris drove to Nashville from Howards Grove, a village of 3,200 residents located between Green Bay and Milwaukee, to pick up the Lincoln and tow it back to Wisconsin for repair and restoration. Harris refused to take a dime of the Bradfords’ money.
One year later, Harris returned the car in pristine condition.
“I wanted them to start new memories with it and pass it on through generations,” Harris said.
In addition to being an auto shop owner with a big heart, Harris is a proud U-Haul dealer. He’s been renting trailers and trucks from the industry leader in do-it-yourself moving and self-storage for the past three years at Midwest Customs.
“It’s going really good,” Harris noted.
Harris added that the U-Haul rentals sign outside his shop has even brought him new business.
“People come to rent a U-Haul truck and say, ‘Oh, you are a body shop, too?'” Harris said.
Harris has expanded his U-Haul affiliation to feature a U-Haul repair center as well. He said he plans to maintain his partnership with U-Haul and continue meeting his community’s moving needs for years to come.
Photos compliments of Jim Harris and Midwest Customs.
Have you seen “The Gift” on ESPN’s E:60? Please share your take on the story and Jim Harris’ incredible act in the comments box below.