Friday, September 9, 2016

91-year-old woman realizes dream of driving a big rig

 It took decades, but Louise Spencer’s dream finally came true.

Spencer, who is set to turn 92 years old this month, recently drove a tractor-trailer for the first time. She even sounded the horn.

“It’s always been something in me that I wanted to do,” Spencer told local media on Friday, Sept. 2 in Winona, Minn.
Spencer was able to fulfill that desire with the help of Jump! – a nonprofit organization based in California that assists seniors in crossing items off their bucket lists.

When the organization approached Spencer at her assisted living community in Minneapolis, she told them her wish was to drive an 18-wheeler. The widow of a former trucker, Spencer said she always hoped that she’d have the opportunity to take the wheel one day.

Tom Gierok, an OOIDA member and truck driving teacher at Minnesota State College Southeast in Winona, said he was honored to be Spencer’s instructor for the day.

“I’m still kind of pinching myself that I got chosen to play a little role in somebody’s big dream,” Gierok said. “Not everybody gets to do that. I’m fortunate … honored is actually the better term.”

Gierok said he first took Spencer to the college’s backing range to get her acclimated to the truck before moving to the driving range.

“She did terrific,” he said. “There was zero hesitation, fear or reservation. It was ‘let’s go.’ It all went off without a hitch.”

Gierok said Spencer seemed to enjoy every aspect of the day.

“She had an instant smile,” he said. “As long as the day was with all of the reporters and cameras and interviews, she was a trooper. I think I needed a nap. She was still going strong.”

Not only was Spencer herself an inspiration, so was her appreciation and understanding of the importance of the trucking industry.

“I think they’re beautiful,” Spencer said of heavy-duty trucks. “What would we do without trucks? They keep us moving.”

Gierok admitted that stories like Spencer’s gives him extra motivation to continue doing his job every day.

“I’m happy that I could be a part of this. I’m still kind of pinching myself.”