Two weekends ago, while at the 39th Annual Hill Country Auto Swap Meet at Lady Bird Johnson Municipal Park, I could almost sense him there.
He was a short man, wearing jeans and a short-sleeved button-down shirt, a ball cap with an “Old Newsboys of Flint” button pinned into the mesh.
Sporting a bushy, grayish-white beard, he slowly walked from booth to booth, intently studying the various auto parts. Sometimes, he’d pick up a part and look it over, handling it with his callused, mechanic’s hands, studying it.
I remember those hands were seldom without some sort of cut on them, the product of his lifelong love for tinkering with moving parts.
Retired from General Motors after 39 years as a tool-and-die maker, he had an amazing eye for vintage parts, engines and signs and could sometimes find items worth hundreds of dollars and get them for only $25.
That man was my former father-in-law, Kim Lutze, and these days, if he visits any more engine shows, it’ll be in spirit only.
On July 23, following years of heart problems, Kim died in Michigan. He was 63.
Even now, as I write this column, it seems so hard to believe that Kim is gone. I have to remind myself everyone lives to an old age. My older sister, Kimberly, born premature in 1965, died approximately 12 hours old.
The proverbial “strong, silent type,” Kim said little. But when he gave his opinion, it often came from a lot of contemplative thinking, weighing the issues.
His unusual first name stemmed from his father, who served in the Marines during the Korean War and decided he liked “Kim,” Korea’s most common surname.
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