Queequeg Survives His Latest Adventure: Getting Donated to Kars4Kids

Queequeg Richard Stukey family car

Queequeg is the name of one our latest donations. The car was so beloved of his owner, donor Richard Stukey of Martinsburg, West Virginia, that he wrote a short piece about Queequeg’s life and times as something less like a car and more like a friend of the family. We are grateful for the donation, and promise to do right by the Stukey family car and friend!


Richard Stukey headshot
Author and donor of Queequeg, Richard Stukey.

After Queequeg—the silver-gray 2007 Honda Civic EX I had named after Ishmael’s loyal friend in Herman Melville’s Moby Dick—had been in the repair shop for more than a week, I went there to speak with the mechanic.

There I saw Queequeg in a parking lot full of SUVs, cars, and racing vehicles, some new and gleaming, others old and dusty. “Trust me,” I whispered to Queequeg. “You still have miles to drive before you sleep.”

But even as I paraphrased Robert Frost’s “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,” I felt as if I were watching Queequeg lying in his coffin after encountering the White Whale in Moby Dick. I didn’t even know what was wrong with my usually reliable car, much less how I would pay for repairs and other expenses.

Bill, my mechanic, looked out from under the chassis of a gleaming pastel blue Chevy racer on a lift inside the shop.

Getting Queequeg Out of Safe Mode

“Were you able to get my car out of safe mode?” I asked, pretending I knew what “safe mode” meant. All I knew was that Queequeeg’s lights flashed, and the horn honked if anyone tried to unlock the door or start the engine.

Bill wiped his hands with an oily red rag and stepped toward me as somberly as the mechanic in Seinfeld’s “The Dealership” episode. “Look, I’m sorry,” he said. “We tried to fix it. But we don’t have all the fancy computer equipment you need to repair the electronics in these newer cars.”

“So, where can I get it fixed?” I asked.

He shrugged. “Well, one option is to tow it to the dealer.”

Tow Queequeg to a Dealer??

My body stiffened. I don’t like dealerships anyway, but I had just gotten out of the hospital and had more medical bills to my name than money. “So, how much do you think it’s going to cost to fix it?”

“There’s no way to tell,” he replied. “First, they’ll have to get it out of safe mode—and who knows how much that will cost? And after that, there’s the engine problem. But we don’t know how expensive that will be until they can get the car out of safe mode.”

“Well,” I sighed, “it probably doesn’t matter because I can’t afford to have a dealer fix it, anyway.”

Consign Queequeg to the Scrap Heap??

He thought for a moment. “You know, there is one other thing you could try. I bet a scrap dealer would give you a couple of hundred—”

“—No, I’m not scraping it,” I interrupted. I wasn’t going to do that to a car that my family called “he” and “him” rather than “it” (at least among ourselves) because he had been so faithful to us.

I circled the car, proud of the new “Queequeg” vanity plate I had purchased for him only a few months earlier. In more than 406,000 miles, he had driven me, my teen son and daughter to places all around the Northeast.

Visits and Memories

One of those places was Sag Harbor, New York, the location in which my novella was set. The book detailed my 1974 college friendship with Linda Gronlund. Linda later became a victim of the 9-11-01 terrorist attack on United Flight 92.

Queequeg also took us to explore New York City; my hometown of Teaneck, New Jersey to visit my mother; and to Boston to see historic sites.

But our favorite destination was the Adirondacks Mountains in New York State. There we climbed mountains, canoed, grilled burgers on the campfire, and at night took trips to Donnelly’s Soft Ice cream in Saranac Lake.

Julie Ann Stukey
Julie Anne Stukey holds an ice cream cone as she sits on the famous “red bench” in front of Donnelly’s Soft Ice Cream in Saranac Lake, New York.

The Bestest Ice Cream

Since Queequeg seemed to enjoy having a cone placed at the end of his hood, we always bought one for him. As melting ice cream dripped down his bumper, I could almost hear Queequeg say, “This is the bestest ice cream in the world!”

Julie enjoys ice cream at Donelly's with Atom, her favorite dog, a husky.
Julie enjoys ice cream at Donelly’s with Atom, her favorite dog, a husky.

I realize now that I couldn’t have afforded to have Queequeg repaired at the dealership. But I had heard about Kars4Kids, a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that, together with their sister charity Oorah, helps thousands of children each year. Maybe I could donate Queequeg to them!

The more I thought about it, the better the idea of donating Queequeg to Kars4Kids sounded. I’m not saying I was happy about giving him away. Who would want to lose a car that had been like a friend to our family? But at least we’ll be giving him to a good cause.

And yes, Queequeg, you’re right about Donnelly’s Soft Ice Cream. It is the “bestest” ice cream in the whole wide world. My family will never forget all the places you took us to visit—and we wish you well in the years ahead!

Richard Stukey, a freelance writer who grew up in Teaneck, New Jersey, and now lives in Martinsburg, West Virginia, is currently writing a children’s book to be entitled, “Travels With Queequeg.”

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