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Woodstock Man, 91, Fulfills Unusual Bucket List Dream

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Over the years, Walter Thomas collected antique cars and enjoyed repairing them. The 91-year-old Woodstock father, grandfather, great-grandfather and great-great grandfather owned four separate gasoline stations in Woodstock over the past 50 years and always admired race car driving from afar.

In addition to his passion for automobiles, Thomas has always had one nagging thought on his mind over the years — one nonconventional wish on his bucket list. On Sunday, Thomas’ three grandchildren helped him check that item off his list.

Walter Thomas, 91, of Woodstock, dons a helmet in preparation for his bucket list stunt: backing a car through a garage door. | Photo by Alex Vucha

“[My grandfather] told me a long time ago that he always wanted to back a car through the garage door,” said granddaughter Becky Goers, of Woodstock. “He always wondered if the garage door would pop off, or if the frame would come down with it.”

Goers, a physical education and driver’s education teacher at Woodstock High School, recently shared her grandfather’s dream with her brother, Andrew Thomas, a deputy for the McHenry County Sheriff’s Office who happens to work as an accident reconstruction officer. Andrew Thomas wanted make his grandfather’s dream a reality.

“It’s been on his bucket list, and it’s been on the back of my mind,” Andrew Thomas said.

Andrew Thomas located an old car headed to the junk yard - a 1998 Isuzu Rodeo donated by Midas Touch of Woodstock owner Jeff McGrath - to use for the stunt. And in a fortunate twist of fate, Andrew’s brother Brian Thomas found the perfect garage for the setting. Brian Thomas’ friends, Nick and Jamielynn Wedoff, were planning to demolish their one-car garage, built in 1921, soon to make way for a new two-story addition at their Hill Street home. The couple quickly jumped into the plot.

“Grandpa and Grandma Thomas have always treated us like family and this is something we thought would be fun,” Jamielynn Wedoff said.

And so with a small crowd of family and friends watching — including his wife of 70 years, Dorothy - Walter Thomas donned a race car driver’s helmet for safety and climbed into the driver’s seat of the Isuzu this past Sunday afternoon. Andrew Thomas, also wearing a helmet for protection, climbed into the passenger seat.

On the “go” signal, Walter Thomas hit the gas pedal, and the sound of screeching tires preceded the moment when the maroon Isuzu burst through the wooden garage doors.

Walter Thomas, 91, of Woodstock, intentionally backed a car through a garage door on Hill Street this past Sunday, May 31. | Photo: Alex Vucha

Although the noise and subsequent crash caused one of Thomas’ great-granddaughters to burst into tears, the rest of the family applauded and cheered. Shattered chunks of wood littered the driveway. For the record, only the garage door came down. The door frame remained unscathed.

“That was crazy,” a smiling Walter Thomas said, as the car came to a stop. “We really took the door down.”

Walter Thomas credited his grandchildren for making his dream — however small — come true.

“I appreciate the kids getting together. It’s kind of nice of them to think of old grandpa,” Walter Thomas said.

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