Restored truck brings a surprise, special moment to Rochester family

By Andrea Ray | Aug 20, 2017
Photo by: Andrea Ray Ken Hathaway's truck, waiting to surprise Sis Hathaway on her way by in the Rochester Country Fair Parade.

Rochester — The Rochester Country Fair Parade brought tears to the eyes of one family this year — it marked the return of their father's well-known truck.

Kenneth “Ken” Hathaway was a million things: World War II veteran, father of six children, welder, former lieutenant of the Rochester Fire Department, organizer of Rochester Memorial School’s annual sixth-grade ski trip. The sight of Ken in his bright red “Hathaway and Sons” truck was a common one around town.

“He was a talker,” his son Steve Hathaway said with a laugh. “He made friends with everyone. He’d say ‘I’m going to run out and pay a few bills,’ and we wouldn’t see him the rest of the day.”

Ken bought the truck new in 1980—it ran continuously until it was parked in a field around 2007, when Ken was no longer able to drive. Although Ken passed away in 2013, the truck that he kept running for nearly 30 years is poised to hit the road again, thanks to a restoration project undertaken by his grandson, Rob Hathaway.

“We’d always wanted to repair it,” Rob said. “Nobody liked seeing Dad’s truck sitting in the field. This year, I finally had the time and the means.”

Rob and his family kept the restoration a secret from Ken's widow, Clara “Sis” Hathaway. “She was always saying how nice it would be to see his truck on the road again,” Rob explained. “Now we’ve repaired it and she has absolutely no idea.”

Thinking that the spruced-up truck would be a great surprise for his grandmother, Rob had planned to have it cleaned and repaired in time to drive it in the annual Rochester Country Fair Parade. The parade drives directly by Sis Hathaway’s house on Pine Street.

Unfortunately, the damage to the truck from years of exposure was too great to officially have it running in time for the parade. “The engine seized up when we went to move it,” Rob said. “Everything was rotted. The floorboards were gone, the truck had more or less split in half. Everything needed to be repaired.” He focused, he said, on making the truck safe, which is why “the underside looks better than the top!”

Rob said that he has spent time every day since working on the truck, beginning the day he pulled it from the field in late 2016. “Every day after work, I’d spend time on the truck, even if it was just an hour,” he said. “It needed a heck of a lot of work. It still does.”

The hard work was all worth it though, to see the truck returned to its glory - and Sis’s reaction upon its return.

The family might not have been able to put the truck in the actual Country Fair Parade, but they were still able to surprise Sis, who ended up participating in the parade herself. The moment she left to join the assembling floats, Rob towed the truck into her driveway. There was a round of phone tag as Sis left. “I was waiting on Snipatuit Road with the truck for her to leave. There was a lot of back and forth calling, ‘the Eagle has flown!’” Rob joked.

Four of the six Hathaway brothers and their families made it to Sis's house to see her first glimpse of the restored truck. "She's going to start bawling," Rob predicted as the parade neared.

Sis appeared on the parade route several minutes later. She rolled the window of the car down and waved to her family as she passed by.

"Do you notice anything? Do you notice anything different?" family members yelled to her excitedly as she passed by.

It took her a moment to notice the truck, intent as she was upon waving to her family. When she did, her shocked reaction was unmistakable. "I was right, she was definitely crying!" Rob said jubilantly.

There are big plans for the truck in the future. “It will definitely be in the parade next year,” Rob said. “We want people to see it on the road again.”

For this year though, seeing the truck repaired is happiness enough.


Sis Hathaway's shock and joy was evident as she spotted her late husband's truck. (Photo by: Andrea Ray)
(Photo by: Andrea Ray)
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