When 74-year-old Joe Garrett woke up Tuesday morning, he didn’t expect a group of strangers to grant his dying wish.
The cancer patient has always loved Corvettes, and wanted one last ride in the American sports car while he could still leave his house.
The Myrtle Beach Corvette Club answered his wish Tuesday with a fleet of 10 Corvettes, each one a different color or model, and each driven by community members willing to spend the afternoon in the sun.
Garrett and his wife, Susan, 72, expected only one glistening ‘vette to show up at their doorstep, but too many people volunteered to limit the occasion to one car.
“They asked for one volunteer,” said Frank Eaton, Conway resident and club member, “but we all volunteered so there’s so many cars to surprise them.”
As the caravan of cars pulled in front of the Garrett’s home, Susan Garrett stood in the driveway, waving to each one, and trying not to cry. Members, gathering in front of the couple’s home on Winyah Bay, shouted their greetings and held out their hands for her.
“I’m overwhelmed,” Susan Garrett said through tears. “You all have my heart.”
“You have ours, too,” chimed in several club members.
After introductions and explanations, Susan led the group into her home and opened the door for her husband to see the cars parked in his driveway. He was left mostly speechless, though a small “breathtaking” squeaked out.
“I haven’t seen this many Corvettes together in a long, long time,” Joe said once he was outside and able to appreciate each car. Al Freedman, the Myrtle Beach Corvette Club’s public relations director, offered up his car for a ride, and the rest of the group pleaded their case to be chosen.
Joe chose a silky maroon 2007 Corvette then loaded up, joining the caravan heading down South Island Road to a boat landing, but not before he was presented a club baseball cap, adorned with red flames on its bill. He donned the hat and the group, his wife included, cruised for about 20 minutes in the sun, escorted by Capt. Nelson Brown from the Georgetown Police Department.
“I think it’s great,” Brown said. “You get the opportunity to let someone do what they’ve always wanted to do, and (the department) is glad to be a part of it.”
The caravan eventually returned to the Garrett’s residence, and Joe had turned his baseball cap around along the way. After coming to a halt, he thanked the club and expressed his appreciation for kindness from a bunch of strangers.
“The ride was wonderful,” he said. “I never expected to have it happen – it was an amazing thing.”
A mission to aid the community
After tearful goodbyes and lots of hugs, the group cleared out and the Garrett’s made their way into the air-conditioned house. Sitting in his armchair and rubbing the sweat from his forehead, Joe recalled loving America’s only sports car since the year they debuted.
“I’ve loved those cars since 1954, since they first came out,” he said.
Susan knew of Joe’s affinity for the vehicles, and had attempted to rent a Corvette for him, she said. When that plan flopped, she sent an email to the club and quickly received a response. Though she was only expecting one car to grant her husband’s wish, the caravan surprised them both.
“I didn’t know what was going on at first, to tell you the truth,” Joe laughed.
Besides showing off their sweet rides and cruising the coast, the Corvette Club regularly participates in local charity events and some private requests. Freedman said the purpose of social clubs is to help the community in whatever way possible.
“It’s very important to us to be charity-driven,” Freedman said. “It’s really good to be able to do things for people in need, and for people who just want us to do fun stuff.”
Making each day a good one
The Garretts moved to Georgetown from Ohio in 2012, shortly after Joe was diagnosed with stage 4 liver and esophageal cancer. The couple, married for 53 years, spend their days doing whatever makes the other happy, including shopping, yard work and Corvette cruising.
Though he was given only a few months to live in June 2012, Joe faces each day with a positive outlook and isn’t afraid of what comes next.
“They told me I had six to eight months to live, so I decided to have the best six to eight months I could,’’ he said. “I’ve lived a good life. Death is just the end of life. It’s not a big deal. It’s just the last thing you do.”
Garrett said he chose to not have chemotherapy, citing the physical and emotional pain it causes. His wife’s unending support and constant love is what keeps him going.
“She said, ‘whatever you want to do, I’ll be right there with you.’”
Though it was his dying wish that the Corvette granted, Susan said she was just as thankful.
“It’s gratifying to see him happy,” she said, “very happy.”
When she first learned of Joe’s diagnosis, she said she was fearful – not of being alone, but of finding him breathless one morning. Then, she decided living in fear was not going to help her husband.
“One day, I made up my mind of making every day a good day,” Susan said. “And I think I’ve done a good job.”
“She sure has,” her husband sighed.