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Retired farmer raising money for wounded vets across country

Published: Monday, June 2, 2014 1:15 a.m. CST
Caption
(Alex T. Paschal/apaschal@saukvalley.com)
Ivan Stoltzfus talks about his cross-country trip Saturday afternoon at a stop at the Dixon VFW. Stoltzfus is driving a 1948 John Deere Model A from New Jersey to California in hopes of raising $1 million for the Wounded Warrior Project. "I was never in the military," Stoltzfus said. "But I wanted to help."
Caption
(Alex T. Paschal/apaschal@saukvalley.com)
Ivan Stoltzfus (right) has his photo taken with Terry and Kim Devine, parents of Marine Lance Cpl. Adam Devine, who lost both legs in an IED explosion in Afghanistan. Adam recently had another surgery, so he couldn't make it home this weekend as planned, but soon he will be home for a month, his family said.
Caption
(Alex T. Paschal/apaschal@saukvalley.com)
The Devine family thanked Ivan Stoltzfus with a coin that commemorates Adam's service.

DIXON – Maybe staring at the horizon for days and weeks on end stains your eyes the color of the sky.

That might explain the blazing blue gaze of cross-country tractor-trekker C. Ivan Stoltzfus, who’s rumbling through the region on “Johnabilt,” his 1948 John Deere Model A, at a less-than-blazing 15 mph. (For example, it took him 2 hours to make the trip from Ohio (the village) to Dixon.)

That’s OK. The retired farmer, who calls eastern Pennsylvania home, doesn’t really feel the need to run like a Deere.

Instead, he’s on a 3,000-mile, 8 miles to the gallon odyssey from Manasquan, New Jersey, to Crescent City, California, raising money along the way for the Wounded Warrior Project, through his effort, Across America for Wounded Heroes.

His fuel of choice appears to be pure patriotism.

Stoltzfus never joined the military, he said, but this journey of his is fulfilling a deep and abiding need to give back to his country, and to the men and women committed to keeping it free – “the many heroes of the USA – hurting men and women who sacrificed of themselves for our nation’s freedom,” he says on his website.

This past weekend, Dixon VFW Post 540 and First Baptist Church in Dixon got in on his action.

About 150 people attended a cookout and meet-and-greet with Stoltzfus at the post on Saturday, Cmdr. Tom Bushman said. Exelon donated the food, and ripped off a $1,000 check for Ivan’s efforts, he said. The post also held a bean-bag tourney, a 50/50 raffle, and donated some of the day’s bar tips.

There was one minor hiccup: Marine Lance Cpl. Adam Devine, 24, of Dixon, who lost both legs above the knees to an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan, couldn’t make it – he’s recovering from yet another surgery – but his family was there to represent.

So was another local hero, Army Spc. Michael Shoemaker Jr., 26, of Eldena, who was injured in an ammunition explosion in March 2011, also while serving in Afghanistan.

The next day, Stoltzfus spoke at First Baptist’s Sunday services. Then the church held a car show and a mini parade.

Proceeds from both days’ events went to the cause.

So far, he’s hit “the high 50s” when it comes to donations, Stoltzfus said.

To help

Ivan Stoltzfus' next stops will be in the Quad Cities, in Moline and Davenport. You can follow his progress, and donate, at www.helpamericanheroes.com or by searching for Across America for Wounded Heroes on Facebook.

 

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