LIVERMORE FALLS – When Cyndi Welch walked into the Bailey Brothers Inc. showroom Thursday and saw the car with a big blue bow on it, she turned to husband Russ and threw her arms around him.
“Oh, my God. Look at it,” she said.
The Dixfield couple had driven their 1992 Ford Crown Victoria with more than 200,000 miles on it – paint fading on the hood – to the dealership to pick up their new car, which they won in a contest.
Cyndi Welch’s essay was one of 50 chosen from among nearly 115,000 entered in Ford’s national Edge Across America promotion in connection with ABC’s “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.”
Ford dealership owner/manager Brenda Brochu helped the family get the car of their dreams, working with them to pick the color, locate the car and get it to Dixfield.
The sleek stone-gray, all-wheel drive 2007 Edge Crossover retails for $35,000. It had balloons floating through the open panoramic vista roof.
“It’s going to a family who have had some hard times, and hopefully this eases some of their problems and helps things along,” Brochu said.
Welch wrote about her husband and his struggle to make ends meet with limited reading and writing skills, always helping others along the way.
“I have dyslexia. I dropped out of school back in the early ’60s when they didn’t know what it was,” Russ Welch said of when he was in the eighth grade.
He started sweeping floors, cleaning trash and doing odd jobs in a repair shop in Raymond, N.H., to help his parents support seven children.
“I just basically went off from there,” said the owner of Rusty’s Auto and Truck Repair garage in Dixfield. “I hung around with the guys and learned how to do stuff. I’m self-taught.” The Welch’s moved to Maine from Nantucket, Mass., seven years ago.
The couple had no health insurance when Cyndi was diagnosed with breast cancer 15 years ago, and they lost their home and business as a result of mounting bills. She is currently recovering from a brain injury suffered in a fall.
Welch wrote in her essay that her husband started over at age 48 when he renovated a barn attached to their 1820s house into a repair shop.
“I’ve never had anybody give me anything other than this car,” Russ Welch said. “I’ve worked 10 to 15 hours a day to get what I want and I’ve a met a lot of good people and had a lot of people help me out along the way.”
Welch said he walked into the house one day and his wife was crying. He wondered what was wrong this time.
She told him they were tears of joy.
“I said, ‘OK, as long as they’re tears of joy,’ and I went about my business,” he said. “I came back in and she said ‘we won a car.’ “
“Yeah, right,” he replied.
She pulled up a picture of an Edge on the computer screen and he still didn’t believe it.
He believed when Ford sent them a letter.
His wife looked over the new car while the two sat in the front seat.
“Look, look I got my sun roof … The lights all work … Look at all the space,” Cyndi Welch said as she checked it over.
“I don’t get too excited,” her husband said. “I’m kind of laid back. She’s been right off the wall. Just like a little kid.”
Their four children, ages 19 to 28, were ready to help their parents keep the car when they learned they planned to reject it because they couldn’t afford the $2,000-plus to register it.
“They’ve been trying to get me out of the Crown Vic for a long time,” Cyndi Welch said, adding they none too thrilled about riding in it.
She told the promotion company they appreciated the offer, but couldn’t afford it.
When the information came for the car, Ford had sent a check to cover sales and excise taxes and registration fee. All they had to do was insure it.
Her husband wants her to drive the vehicle, though he planned to show it off later that day.
“It’s always safety first with him,” she said. “It’s just incredible,” Welch said.