FAIRBANKS — Zane Jacobsen celebrated his 15th birthday on his first day of chemotherapy.
The cancer treatment marked the beginning of the North Pole teen’s four-and-a-half-year struggle against bone cancer, which eventually took his life on Dec. 27, 2011.
This month, a year since his passing, Zane’s memory lives on through a 1963 Chevy pickup truck restoration project under way at Hutchison High School, which Zane attended for his last two years of high school.
In the year before his death, Zane had bought two dilapidated ’63 Chevy pickups from a local tow truck company, using $600 of his own money.
His plan was to restore one truck using parts from the other, said his mother, Ellen Moore.
“It was something he was going to work on little by little,” she said.
The project had barely begun before Zane suffered a relapse and became too sick to continue.
Shortly before his death at Seattle’s Children’s Hospital, Zane — with his mother, stepfather Stanley Moore, father William Jacobsen and sister Lindsey Jacobsen at his side — made his wishes known about what he wanted done with the trucks.
The family discussion resulted in a plan to donate the trucks to Hutchison High for a restoration project in the school’s automotive technology classes, to do fundraising to cover parts and supplies and, once completed, to auction the restored vehicle to benefit Make-a-Wish Alaska.
Zane died two days later.
“But that’s not all Zane left behind to benefit others in so many ways,” Ellen said. “He also was able to donate two corneas and some tumor tissue for research. He was very happy when he found out he could do that.”
“He could be pretty goofy, but he had a really big heart. He learned what was really important in life through his battle,” she said. “He also was very courageous and never lost hope.”
Within months of her son’s death, Ellen, a nurse at Fairbanks Memorial Hospital, began spearheading the restoration project. She contacted school officials, teachers and various automotive businesses around town for donations and called the Make-A-Wish Alaska Foundation, which had granted Zane a wish in 2008.
Working with Hutchison High Principal Daniel Domke and automotive technology teachers Tom Boyarsky and Kelly Shaw, Ellen helped set the stage for the restoration project.
Zane’s sister, Lindsey, 18, named the project “Zane’s Ride,” and Ellen, with the help of her husband, Stanley, created a Facebook page with the same name.
They encountered delays and disappointments along the way, the most difficult of which was trying to find another ’63 Chevrolet pickup with a body frame that wasn’t rusted out and that could be used safely as the basis for the makeover. Finding another truck was vital since one of the vehicles Zane had purchased was in such poor condition that much of it couldn’t be used.
But they’ve had success. To date, pieces and parts from four Chevy trucks are being used. The final hybrid truck will include a solid body frame and cab from a truck donated by Maureen and Dave Fink, the engine and some mechanical and body parts from Zane’s original two trucks, and another truck recently purchased for parts.
Students in Boyarsky and Shaw’s classes have been eager to get started.
Students Tyler Morales, J.R. Boots and Quinten Lowery are handling the body work under Boyarsky’s critical eye. Other students will pitch in working on bumpers, painting and polishing trim, among the many tasks.
“It’s going to be 100 percent mint,” Lowery said as he and other students assessed the vehicle that would be restored, opening its doors, looking under the seats and peering into the engine compartment.
Another student, Tony Naber Sr., said he is looking forward to dropping the engine. “I’d like to be working on the engine right now,” he said.
Both automotive technology teachers are incorporating the project into their class curriculums.
“We split the project in two,” Shaw explained. The automotive shop basic and advanced classes will handle the suspension, brakes, drive train and electrical system, and the body shop students will tackle the frame, body and painting.
Enthusiasm is high, Shaw said.
“We give them the theory, and they go nuts. Anything that gets them hands-on, they love it.”
Shaw said some of the goals for the upcoming semester will be to get the truck’s brakes and suspension in place and then tackle the drive train in the next school year.
The go-ahead to start came a little more than two weeks ago, and the students dug right in, energetically disassembling the faded dark green Chevy.
“The students have a sense of worth giving the project back to the community,” Boyarsky said. “It has been really hard to keep them from getting at it and tearing it apart.”
While students took a first good look, Boyarsky pointed out the wooden truck bed of solid oak planks. A few of the planks will have to be replaced, but most can be reconditioned, he said.
Within a short time, the bed was off the truck and students slowly began to start the body work.
“The front seat is out and the doors are off, and we are preparing the cab for the frame. We found a solid passenger compartment with very little rust,” Boyarsky said.
“There is no manual out there, and we are going one step at a time, but we know how to do body work and that is what we are doing,” he said. “We are not going fast.”
The project work went on hold last week for final exams.
“We’re cleaning up the shop right now and getting things sorted, so we can come back to a clean shop and hit the ground running next semester,” Boyarsky said.
Contact staff writer Mary Beth Smetzer at 459-7546. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMschools.
To make a donation
Donations for the Zane’s Ride project can be made in three ways:
• Ellen M. Moore charitable account at Alaska USA Federal Credit Union.
• By check to Ellen Moore, P.O. Box 83112, Fairbanks, AK, 99708
• Hutchison High School donation box