Vietnam veteran Jim Garhart’s 50-year trucking career came to an abrupt halt in June after he was diagnosed with terminal cancer while in the hospital following a bad tractor-trailer crash.
His wife, Connie Garhart, also an owner-operator, was determined to grant her husband’s final wish to take one last ride in a semi-truck.
After sharing Jim’s last wish on the RoadWarriors Facebook page, which is dedicated to highlighting positivity in the trucking industry, Connie’s post caught the eye of owner-operator Gerald Johnson, known as Trucker G, and his wife, Mary, or Mrs. G, of Hartville, Missouri.
Under a load and headed to Texas when they received the message, Trucker G said he and his wife were driven to grant Jim’s final wish.
“I called my company and I spoke to the dispatcher and asked if there was any way the dispatcher could get me a load from Texas to Nebraska,” Trucker G told FreightWaves. “I was like either way, we are deadheading to Nebraska to make his wish happen.”
Trucker G, who is an owner-operator contracted with Cargill, said his dispatcher called him back within 10 minutes with a load going to Schuyler, Nebraska, which is about 20 miles from where the Garharts live in Duncan, Nebraska.
Making it happen
A few days later, Trucker G and Mrs. G pulled into the Garhart’s driveway to fulfill his last wish. They also arrived with a sizable check to help with expenses since Connie also had to stop trucking to care for her terminally-ill husband.
“When we got there, he was very overjoyed and we were able to give him a sizable check that brought a tear to his eye,” Trucker G said. “As a husband, your number one concern is providing for your family and when you can’t provide for your family, that’s a huge stress.”
Donations rolled in from truck drivers, Trucker G’s own pocket and his motorcycle club, which agreed to match the amount he raised.
Also supporting Jim’s final ride was Derek McClain, digital marketing manager of Driver Solutions, which provides CDL training and helps place entry-level drivers with trucking companies.
McClain said he’s known Trucker G for many years because he used to be an instructor at one of Driver Solutions’ 12 locations throughout the U.S.
He is also an integral part of the RoadWarriors FB group.
“We try to bring drivers together in a more positive environment, just with the way everything’s going in our country and then in trucking in general,” McClain told FreightWaves. “A lot of times you see these Facebook groups turn into negative places where they’re just bashing other companies. So we’ve tried to do something different.”
Jim’s final ride
Fellow truckers asked him if he could video Jim’s final ride because they couldn’t participate, but wanted to show their support for the 50-year trucking veteran.
“I asked Connie and Jim if it would be OK if we videoed it live on Facebook and they quickly agreed,” Trucker G said. “I told them it wasn’t about social media or how many views we got because this was about Jim.”
A few minutes into the eight-mile drive, which Mrs. G recorded live, truckers were quick to thank Jim for paving the way for them in the industry.
Trucker G, who has been in the trucking industry for nearly 30 years, and his wife have been checking in periodically with Jim’s wife, Connie, who said he’s still hanging in there.
So far, more than 130,000 people have viewed his emotional final ride with Jim.
“Jim loved hearing all of the positive comments,” Trucker G said. “As bad as the situation was, there was no sadness. Everything was about joy that day.”