Jeff Velde will be missed
By Jessica Tuggle
VERO BEACH - The sound of an engine cranking, the smell of motor oil and seeing car parts baking in the kitchen oven are just a few of the treasured memories Trish Velde has of her father, Jeff Velde.
"My dad raced, worked with and sold cars. He knew everything there was to know about every stinkin' car," Ms. Velde said.
Mr. Velde, 70, was the owner of Velde Ford in Vero Beach for more than 35 years. He died on Sept. 25.
Patty Velde, his wife of 45 years, and daughter Trish, sat down with Hometown News to celebrate his life with shared memories last week.
"Cars were his thing and he loved it," Mrs. Velde said.
"I remember one time he invented something, a manifold, and it needed to be baked and so he baked it in my oven," she said.
"We came home and asked, 'What's for dinner,' and we see that we've got car parts in the oven!" said Ms. Velde with a laugh.
Mr. Velde is also survived by daughter, Carrie Grass, five grandchildren and three siblings.
His dealership in Vero Beach is what many people in town know him for, but Mr. Velde was also a successful drag racer, Mrs. Velde said.
He was a member of the National Hot Rod Association and raced super stock and professional stock cars and won dozens of awards. He was inducted into the National Hot Rod Association Hall of Fame in 2008.
Ms. Velde recalls sitting in the stands with her sister during races and listening to people talk about her father's expected performance.
"No one knew who we were sitting in the stands. I felt really cool, watching the race and then when he won, I could say, 'That's my dad.' Sometimes kids would ask for his autograph. It was a cool experience," Ms. Velde said.
When schoolwork permitted, the whole family would go to the races, which were held all over the country.
"My sister and I got paid 50 cents an hour to wipe fingerprints off the car," Ms. Velde said.
A favorite racing story of both women features a red Pinto.
The car was holding up well in the races that day, but in the semi-finals, the door completely blew off, Ms. Velde said.
Mr. Velde was able to complete the race and qualified to race in the finals, but the missing door was a problem. The crew quickly took the car off the track, pop-riveted and duct taped the door back on, and Mr. Velde went on to win that finals race.
"He won the biggest trophy he ever won that day. And we still have the door hanging from the ceiling in Velde Ford," she said with a laugh.
Mr. Velde owned dozens of cars and motorcycles through the years, and everything he had, he tinkered with, Mrs. Velde said.
She had a golf cart she used to get around in while at the races, and even that vehicle had the Velde racing stamp of approval on it.
"If you're a racecar driver, you're a racecar driver and you have to win," Mrs. Velde said.
"He used to tease us that he'd get a tractor and fix it up for racing, too," Ms. Velde said.
Cars were his livelihood, but people were also extraordinarily important to him, Mrs. Velde said.
"At the dealership, in the community, people have such a respect for him. We have gotten sympathy cards from everywhere, but not just sympathy cards, thank you cards, too," she said.
"He would have moved mountains for people, I can't tell you how many people have told us, he did this for me, that for me," Ms. Velde said.
"He was a very private person, he didn't do it for the recognition," Mrs. Velde said.
Funeral arrangements were handled by Strunk Funeral Home and a service was held at Central Assembly of God Vero Beach.
Memorial contributions may be sent to the Visiting Nurse Association and Hospice Foundation at 1110 35th Lane, Vero Beach.