Ken with his Willys Delivery Sedan.
February 7, 1945 - May 6, 2012
again, it’s time to pay tribute to a lost friend in the FC Community, Ken
Coulter. His passing was unexpected and even though it is a very tough time
right now, this area of the FC Connection is to make sure that the memories of
those who pass are never forgotten. First is a heartfelt piece from one of
Ken’s closest friends, Jesse Ybarra, then a few memories from me followed by
comments from friends of Ken’s that were posted on the Forward Forum.
Ken was my best
He attended all of the FC Roundups, and he was the reason, I was able to work on
some of the most impossible projects. Ken was the best at helping me overcoming
what couldn't be done, especially when I think about what all we did together. I
will miss him, coming over full of excitement, with that new Idea. On the
Saturday before he died, We had gone to breakfast, as we did almost every day,
we then did what we enjoyed doing on Saturdays, we went to Estate Sales, he was
always out of my car, before I would get my seat belt off, he would do his speed
walk, wanting to beat me out of buying tools, we didn't need any, but that is
what we did. Shopping and building Jeeps, it didn't get any better than that,
this is what we enjoyed doing together, we would come home with a truck load of
stuff, sometimes we would need a car trailer and the best thing was that our
wives understood. Saturday Morning it was breakfast as usual with my best Friend
Ken, we discussed more details about our decision to rescue still another rare
Willys. Ken said to me, it doesn't have a chance, there is only a handful of
people that would save it, he opened his large hand, and closed one finger as he
said you, then closed another finger then he said me, next he closed all of his
fingers and said we are that handful. We left there and shopped at a few
estate sales and bought some tools, then I dropped him off at home, I took
Andrea to her treatment and while there, I emailed some information about a
chrome shop, later on he came by my house and hung out for a while, then I
talked to him on the phone later, he was fine all day.
At 11pm he had a massive heart attack, at the ER he coded 2 times, I was there
at the hospital. He was still alive and getting ready to go on that last road
trip. He was going in and out, on his way to Jeep Heaven, when I got
there. I was able to see him for my last time, by early morning, he died
at the Hospital. with is wife, daughter and son, I kept waiting for him to wake
up. He died at 10Am. This is not a Most Excellent time for me. Ken and I, were
the last of the original team of four, we built and accomplished a lot of
rebuilds, and repowers. First to leave was Bruce, he passed a few years a go and
left us wondering, then James found out he had lung cancer, although he is still
alive, he is terminal. Bruce and James were born on the same day. We were all
close to the same age. I have a good friend Dennis, that came to work here a few
years ago and Dale, who is Ken's son that works for me part time. They are much
younger than me, and are able to help me a lot. My wife was able to be with me
at the funeral. It was a very nice service at the Church that Ken's wife Rose
is the pastor of. Ken was very religious, and never worked on Sundays. In
attendance were his son and daughter and his three grand children, he had a lot
of church friends, even some of his Iron Pour college friends, his neighbors and
a lot of and Jeep owners were there.
He was born in Wisconsin, then his family moved to Illinois, he married his wife
Rose, there, where they had a farm. They raised two children Dale and Janet.
He was suffering from lymphoma Cancer, when they moved here to Phoenix, after
removing his lymph glands and sweat glands, he improved. He had been a cancer
survivor for 20 years, when I met him. Only he had given up already. I met him
at an Estate Sale, there was some really nice things, a lot of unique metal
sculptured yard art, and all of it was really nicely made. I bought a Lincoln
Welder, some Harris gas welding equipment, I bought a lot of welding supplies,
spray guns, sand blaster, planishing hammer, metal shrinker, a large English
wheel, a lot of really good tools, and a lifted Golf cart. Imagine me at a
welding candy store, I was almost a magnet to everything I saw. I didn't need
anything I bought. But it was all good stuff. And he was almost giving it away.
Ken was sitting in a chair, with a mask on, he was sick, he weighed about a
hundred pounds, at Six foot Four, you can imagine. Because he was having another
return bout of Cancer, he was very sick from the Chemotherapy, I hit him with, a
question. So who died? He told me he was dying, he kept coughing, I said to him
that he wasn't dead yet. I asked him, what are you going to do for fun
now that I bought all this equipment. He took a minute, then he said nothing,
just waiting. I told him I had a lot of Jeeps, like the one out front, and some
other collector cars. He said he had never seen a Jeep like my 4 door. He got up
out of his rocking chair and looked it over and asked if I had made it into a 4
door, I asked him if he ever had a Jeep before?
I asked him if he wanted to see more of my vehicles, he said not now. I sat with
him, while he coughed and dealt with other buyers, well they were almost
vultures, pretty soon, I took over and started pricing stuff for him. He told me
about a 57 Chevy that he restored and drove before he got sick and a 29 Model A,
a 4 door sedan that he had in High School, in a few hours, he agreed to come
over someday and see my vehicles. I took Andrea home to get my trailer and then
I went back, he was pretty sick. I agreed to come back another time, to get my
treasures, that time to come back never did happen. That was over 10 years ago.
I asked him what time he got up and he said around 4: am because of the pain,
The next day I took him to breakfast, then I brought him over to my place, and
that is how I met Ken. He started to want to just come over and hang out to see
what Bruce and I had been doing. Ken got better, he would ask if he could finish
welding what I started to tack in place, then months went by and we were going
to breakfast everyday. Ken eventually realized, that he was keeping all that I
had bought. Then James came to work part time, he had lost his job, and not much
hope for him getting a job like he had, as the manager of an auto repair
facility, because the light rail took away the building where he worked. The
team was complete, Ken and I could do fabrication, Ken would eventually want to
do all of my body work, I would do frame work and wiring. Bruce who was retired
maintenance and janitor from a school district would clean and prep, I had
bought Bruce's J-20 years before so he knew about Jeeps. James, was scared of
all dogs, but got to become best friend of my pervious Dog Charlie. He would do
some of the mechanical work part time while looking for a Job. Eventually James
met another one of my friends that was the parts manager at the nearby Chevrolet
dealer. He was so happy to be there. But it was short lived when the dealer
Soon Ken's health started to improve, and he was at the house everyday. It
wasn't long before Ken wanted to build a Jeepster like mine, we did that
together then we bought another one, to restore for his son for his son Dale and
then another for Ken's Grandson Austin. We worked together building the S-10
Jeep Panel Delivery, We went to a lot of out of town car shows together with our
wives. Ken really helped me with my M-679. One day Ken told me he was going to a
Junior College, an Iron Pour class, for a week in New Mexico, he actually wanted
me to go. I reminded him that it was snowing, up there, he told me it didn't
matter, he was going melt Iron. And that is how Ken was, he needed to be
creating, he made some iron cast Jeep parts, then had them chromed. This was an
example of how resourceful he was, no fear to learn, if it was man made, he
would learn how to make a part, that couldn't be bought.
About FCs and Ken, I gave him one, it was here for a while, and he changed his
mind, he was always scared to be that close to the front. I had learned to
understand because he liked to follow to close and he liked to be in a hurry to
go everywhere. This was a good thing, compared to how he was when I met him.
Andrea's comment to Rose was that she was grateful that we were at that Most
Excellent Estate Sale and got to meet Ken. He was so easy to like, I am sure he
is making new Jeep friends where he is at.
I also wanted to say a few words about Ken. Of course I met Ken through Jesse
and the FC Roundups and from the first time I met him I could tell that he was a
real special guy. Even though we only saw each other once or twice a year he
treated me like a great friend every time we saw each other. I could tell right
away that he was a real craftsman the first time I visited his house. Right
away I thought, “This guy lives in the desert but he built some cacti out of
metal or something and had them in his front yard!” They looked good too! He
had a great way with old trucks but really shined in his non-automotive
achievements. Every year when I saw him he was quick to tell me about his metal
classes in Tucumcari, New Mexico and show off what he built at school. He
really had a talent when it came to metal!
On one trip I brought him a few episodes of a show that I thought he’d really
get a kick out of.
“Rare Visions and
Roadside Revelations” was the name of the show and it was about this group
of guys that traveled the country in search of “Folk Art.” Well Ken took them
home and watched them right away and saw me the next day. He said that he liked
the show but thought that a lot of those folk art guys might be a little
eccentric and held religion very high. I assured Ken that they shared many of
the same dreams as him and if you’re doing what you love, how could anyone be
judgmental. He smiled and agreed.
My favorite memory from all my trips to Phoenix was when I flew in for a FC
Roundup and was put up by Jesse at his house. I was there for a few days before
& after the event and got to “Hang” with Jesse, Ken and James just like one of
the guys. We went to a friend of theirs who had a awesome metal working shop
right in the middle of the historic part of town. It was a very fun, eye
opening time. And of course all the restaurants and out of the way places that
they were known as regulars.
The highlight had to be the trip to the Jeep junkyard after the event. When
we got there Ken & I were enlisted to ride in the back of the Explorer as we
were the “Small Guys” of the group for the tour of the yard. Crammed in like
sardines I remember Ken & I looking at each other smiling and both thinking,
“How did we get talked into this?” Great times for sure! Wouldn’t trade them
for the world!
Forward Forum Posts on Ken's passing
very heavy heart and much sadness I have very bad news to share with our group.
One of Jesse's best buddies and a friend to many of us who have attended the FC
Roundups, Ken Coulter passed away yesterday of a massive heart attack. This has
been a great shock to everyone that knew Ken and I ask that you give Ken's
family and friends time to grieve but I knew that those you knew Ken would want
to know. Over the years Ken &Jesse have had an inseparable relationship and the
two of them indeed complemented each other as great craftsmen on many Jeep
projects. Just take a look on the FC Connection on Jesse's M-679 build. That was
all Ken & Jesse at their best. A great guy was lost yesterday and I ask you to
keep Ken and his family in your thoughts and prayers.
Link: M-679 Build
From the first day I saw his Willys Sedan Delivery (my favorite of all autos) I
envied Ken Coulter and his handiwork. I had the honor of seeing previews of his
latest project, which showed impressive craftsmanship. The art he created
(movable creatures and geometric shapes) from parts and pieces showed his
intelligence and creativity.
Spending a day with Ken hunting for a Willys Wagon body for his stretched four
door Wagon was what bonded me to Ken, though I was just another visitor in town
to him. In the past, I have kept a little piece of a few who have passed away by
caring for the car they left behind. This time it's different, I feel like I'm
part of Ken by supplying a few parts and pieces for him sculpt into his latest
creation. I will always remember Ken when I think of what automobile
craftsmanship is all about. There will be something missing every time I travel
I met Ken with Jesse one day in AZ. He was such a cool guy with multiple
projects, art, trucks, jeeps, etc going on at his place. then he swung by a shop
where we were building a truck and checked it out. It was great to meet him. I'm
sorry to hear about your friend Jesse.
Yes, that's very sad news. I sure enjoyed talking with Ken at the Round-Ups and
seeing his projects. He had a real sparkle in his eye when he talked Jeep and
what he was working on. He will be very missed.
I loved talking with Ken at the round ups and seeing his projects come to life.
He was a true artist with metal. He will be missed.
I really enjoyed Kens company at the events and the trip we took to Jerome last
year. He definitely will be missed. When he just started the
limo,caddy,jeep,combo and he explained to me what he was about to do, I think I
just stood there in disbelief. When I saw it last Sept I was amazed at what he
had done, but still not convinced how nice it would be, until I saw it after the
event this year!!! It was more than amazing!!!! So he was right about the
handful of people, I don't think I would ever take on a challenge of
lengthening, widening, and finishing a project of such magnitude!!! I only knew
Ken for a few years, from the events, going for breakfast and dinner during the
events, talking about his Jeep projects and a few side trips that Jesse, Ken and
I took when I visited during my holidays. I'm sure he was one heck of a guy with
everything he did! I feel very honored that I got to be friends with him.