Lonnie Ferril Jr.
Lonnie Ferril Jr. was born to Lonnie and Joyce Ferril on June 7, 1961 in Shamrock, Tx. Lonnie Sr. was a police officer in Amarillo and moonlighting for T-miller in the early 1960’s. Lonnie and T started a salvage yard in 1962 and bought half of T-Miller in 1963. He and Joyce bought the other half of T-Miller in 1964. “JR” loved going in the tow truck with his dad. He went with him from the time he was out of diapers till he had to start school. He knew every DPS and police officer in the Amarillo area. He would sit in the cab of the truck while Lonnie was working and all of the officers would go and visit with him while he was waiting on his dad. He was very upset when he had to start school; he thought it was a total waste of time. Especially since “he was going to own T-Miller some day and drive a tow truck”. He was getting his education!! He would always go help with truck wrecks and when he wasn’t in school he was in a truck. When he was about ten he and Joyce would go get a vehicle, Joyce would drive and JR would back up to the car, hook it up and then when they got where they were going with the vehicle…JR would back it up in the spot it needed to go….cause in his own words…”Mom can’t back for s*@t!”
His first official tow job was when he was 14 yrs old and there was a wreck down by Tulia, Tx. Lonnie drove a heavy truck, Joyce drove a tractor to bring the trailer in and JR drove a 2 ton tow truck. When JR arrived on the scene the DPS officer asked him how old he was because he was pretty sure JR wasn’t old enough to drive a truck. Well, JR in his “FERRIL” tone asked him what difference did that make cause he got there…..that left the officer scratching his head since he knew the scene had to be cleaned up an obviously he did get the truck there.
JR and Jeni started going together in the 8th grade and married in August after graduating high school. JR had the opportunity to go to college, BUT, just like kindergarten “why would he do that since he was doing all he ever wanted to do”.
JR and Jeni had two children, David and Megan and every time they would go anywhere out of town they would have to look up the local wrecker service and go in for a visit. If he didn’t know the owners before he got there….he knew then before he left. If they were closed or not in the office JR would circle the parking lot like a stalker to look at the equipment and facilities.
JR served on the TTSA Board for over twenty years and was also very active in the community to promote the towing industry. Anyone who knew JR would remember him by his smile….for when he smiled he could light a room. A local elementary school would have field trips to T-Miller every year and JR loved spending time with the children and telling them all about the tow trucks. He was also very active in the “Make A Wish Foundation” volunteering when they needed help with certain wished or when they had truck shows at local facilities.
In 1999, JR fell out of one of the big wreckers on the back of his head causing severe head, neck and shoulder injuries. He wasn’t supposed to drive anymore but every time they got busy he would race out and get in the truck and go. He hated being in the office all the time, he loved being in the truck and talking to customers.
In January 2004 Joyce was diagnosed with lung cancer and she and Lonnie semi-retired. June 2004 Joyce lost her battle with cancer. JR, Jeni and his brother Byron took over running the business in January and took over as owners in June. JR had FINALLY achieved his lifelong dream….he owned T-Miller. This was short lived. Unfortunately March 30, 2005 JR passed away suddenly. He had finally made it but his wife and children would have to carry on the business for him. And they have. Today, Jeni, David and Megan run T-Miller together. Trae, JR’s grandson loves playing at T-Miller when not in school; and so the next generation begins. JR is also survived by two granddaughters, Alexis and Brookelynn. Unfortunately he never met his grandchildren but they learn from him through their “Nonee” and parents every day. Jeni assumed the Board of Director position that was left vacant by JR’s death; David is active in training; and Megan runs the business while Jeni and David are off working for the association And the legacy lives on.
Neal Pool Rekers
Michael “Mike” Neal Pool, the “Quiet One” to his grandchildren was born on October 10, 1957 to Neal and Hilta Pool in Odessa, TX. Odessa has been his home ever since. He attended Dowling Elementary, Bonham Junior High and Permian High School.
Mike’s father, Neal, began in the towing industry in 1963 when Broncho Chevrolet requested that he build a tow truck to haul their vehicles. At the time, Neal and Hilta were running Neal Pool Rentals (thus, the spelling of Rekers), renting trucks and trailers, similar to what we now think of as Uhaul. Neal built all the trailers himself. They also had an Atlas Van Lines franchise. Mike was instantly entranced with the towing aspect of the business. So much so that Neal and Hilta were able to use it as grounds for punishment. While most of his friends were being grounded from television, recreation, etc., Mike was grounded from going to the yard after school and on the weekends. At age 15 he began driving his own tow truck and it was not unusual to see a Neal Pool Reker sitting in the school parking lot during school hours. How many of us can say that we dreamed of having our own tow truck as our very first set of wheels?
Upon Neal’s death in 1974, Hilta was realistic enough to know that it was inconceivable for a 17 year old boy and his mother to keep all three businesses running. She gave Mike the choice of which of the three he wanted to make a go of and, of course, no thinking was required on his part – he chose the wrecker business. By this time they were towing for several other dealerships besides Bronco Chevrolet and were also doing the city’s towing. The rest is history. Mike and Hilta built Neal Pool Rekers into a thriving business whose name is recognized and respected throughout the Permian Basin.
Hilta passed away in 2006 but Mike continues to run Neal Pool Rekers with pride. His wife, Shelley, joined the family legacy in 2000 upon the failing health of Hilta. Kristi-Jo, their oldest daughter, joined the ranks while still in high school helping out part-time. She, like her father, knew this industry is where she belonged. She has now been a full-time employee for 8 years and plans on taking over when, and if, her father retires.
Besides his dedication to the towing industry, Mike is also a dedicated father and grandfather. Believe it or not, between all of his towing association duties and the running of Neal Pool Rekers, Mike still found time to be a loving and active father to four other children besides Kristi-Jo. Joshua Purcell has his BS in Information Systems and is presently working as an IP Specialist for IBM in Dallas. His wife, Patricia, is currently a medical student at UT Southwestern and is planning on specializing in ENT. She will be graduating in May of 2011. Josh & Trish have a 2 year old son, Lane. Lt. Jeremy Purcell has his BS in Economics and is currently serving as a Ranger in the US Army, stationed at Ft. Benning in Columbus, GA. His wife, Azul (who also happened to be Mike and Shelley’s foreign exchange student from Argentina during the boys’ senior year in HS, Jeremy married her 10 years later) is a licensed pediatrician in Argentina and is currently working on getting her license to practice in the United States. Jeremy & Azul also have a two year old son, Sean. Kristi-Jo Pool is next in line and, as mentioned above, is the child following in her father’s footsteps. Jaymie Pool is living in San Antonio, attending Career Point College, working on her associate degree in Medical Assisting and is planning on continuing her education in the nursing field. Last, but not least, is the youngest of the clan, Shelby Huffman. Shelby will be a sixth grader this fall at Murray Fly Elementary in Odessa.
Mike served on the Board of Directors a number of years and has been instrumental in the Heavy Duty School becoming such a success.
Euless B & B Wrecker
Andrew “Andy” Chesney, or the “Gentle Giant to” some was born February 26, 1955 and married Deborah Baker April 14, 1978. They have two children, John Heilman and Holly Heilman Haven and three grandchildren, Brittany (16), Andi Leigh (10) and Parker (7).
Euless B & B Wrecker Service is a family-owned business, which was founded in 1954, by Mr. Robert Baker. Upon the death of Robert in June 1975, his son Bobby Baker continued to run the business; Andy worked for Bobby from 1978 to 1981. In 1982 Robert’s daughter, Sandra and husband Ronnie Hicks purchased and ran the business. After the death of Ronnie Hicks in 1984, Sandra continued to run the business on her own until August of 1986 when Andy and Debi purchased the business. At this time the business consisted of 3 light duty wreckers and 2 heavy duty wreckers. In 1996 Andy and Debi purchased 11 acres and built a state of the art storage facility. On Thursday March 28, 1996, all operations were moved to the new location, and an exciting new chapter began in the history of Euless B & B Wrecker Service. Currently Euless B & B Wrecker Service Inc. has 32 employees, 19 light duty wreckers, 3 medium duty wreckers, 5 heavy duty wreckers and 6 haul trucks.
Andy Chesney is a member of the TRAA, TTSA, ITRHF (INTL Towing and Recovery Hall of Fame & Museum) and Founding Member of Sea-Air-Land Recovery, Inc. – Air Craft Recovery Team.
Andy is committed to Community Service belonging to:
- The Estelle Lodge 582, as a Mason, Scottish Rite and Shriner
- Every 15 Minutes (Teen Drunk Driving Prevention Program)
- DPS Officer K-9 Training Support
- Local Fire Department Training Support
- Local SWAT Training Support
Andy and Debi Chesney never hesitated when asked to help an Oklahoma family struck by tragedy. The Chesney’s joined more than 1,000 people who donated materials, services and time to build a dream home for the Gene Westbrook family through Extreme Home Makeover. The Westbrook family suffered two tragedies which would change their life forever. In April 2004 SFC Gene Westbrook was hit by mortar fire in Baghdad, Iraq, leaving him paralyzed. Then in July 2006, a car accident left the Westbrook’s nine year old son James paralyzed and caused their daughter to suffer internal injuries and later lose a kidney. Andy said “It was an honor to participate in such a great cause and to be able to give something back to a man that fought for our country and has given so much to all of us. We have done a lot of exciting things in our time, but when we can give back something like this it makes you feel good. Towing companies can help in many positive ways that is good for the industry”.
Euless B & B Wrecker Service also has earned the following:
- City of Euless Man of the Year 1987, 1988, 1991 and 2006.
- Euless United Way Volunteer of the Year
- Certificate of Appreciation by the Department of Public Safety Officers Association
- Outstanding support and dedication to the Euless Citizens Fire Academy Charter Class from the Euless Fire Department
- “Commitment to Service” Award presented by the Hurst-Euless-Bedford Chamber of Commerce
- Single Advocate of the Year Award Region II by the Texas Recreation and Park Society
- 2005 Texas Recreation and Park Society Commercial Award (Statewide) by the Euless Parks and Community Service
- 2005 Commercial Volunteer of the Year by the Texas Recreation and Park Society for Outstanding Contribution to the City of Euless
- 2006 Business of the Year by the City of Euless
Andy is currently a Board of Director Member and works with Mike Pool on the Heavy Duty Training School given every year.
Dan Wheeler Wrecker Service
Dan Wheeler bought his first light duty tow truck in 1958. Like most wrecker owner’s he worked hard and seven years later he invested in his first heavy duty truck, from that moment on the towing and recovery of heavy duty vehicles became his passion. As his family and business grew, Dan’s two sons, Danny and Edward, became actively involved in the business. A pioneering company throughout the years, Dan Wheeler Wrecker Service was always open to new concepts and Dan was one of the first to introduce wheel lifts, heavy duty boom trucks and rotators to the Houston market. When TxDOT established the ITR Eighteen Wheeler Recovery system, Dan Wheeler Wrecker Service was one of the one of the five initial partners. In an effort to drive change within our industry, Dan has served as an officer for the Houston Automobile Wrecker Association; and a charter member of Texas Certificated Towing Association, which is now the TTSA. Dan is an active member of numerous community, state and local organizations dealing with safety in both the towing and commercial trucking industry. Dan’s motto is “ONE CALL DOES IT ALL!!”
Herman E. Kokel
Kokel’s Wrecker Service
Although Herman and Jean are officially retired, Herman shows up for work several days a week and Jean has worked for Wal-Mart as a greeter for more than five years. Herman likes to talk to people; his passion is accommodated by passing time as the dispatcher at Denver’s Towing, a company run by his son Denver Kokel on Ferguson Lane, Austin. Herman was born into a German family in Walburg, Texas. He attended Zion Lutheran School, one of the many local schools who taught the curriculum in German. In this small community English was the secondary language. Herman moved to Austin in 1946 and started working as a mechanic for Yellow Cab Company. He remembers the challenges of installing the very first cab meters in the City of Austin. Looking for personal growth, in 1948, he went to work for C. B. Smith Dodge Dealership as a mechanic. As he matured, he took on more responsibility working as a service manager and service advisor for several Dodge Dealerships. With a growing family Herman took extra jobs and in 1981, he started driving a tow truck for Dependable Motors on a part time basis for the city rotation system, while continuing to work as a mechanic. After Dependable Motors closed, he decided it was time to go into the wrecker business, albeit on a part-time basis. With his two sons, Denver and James driving the wreckers, and a dispatcher working from home, Kokel’s Wrecker Service began business. Nineteen ninety-one was the year it all came together, Jean retired from her job with the State of Texas and became the dispatcher and helped with the business. In October of that year, Herman left the Chrysler Dealership to run the towing company full time. Over the next few years Kokel’s Wrecker Service grew from 4 tow trucks to 19. By 2002 with both Denver and James operating wrecker businesses of their own, Herman decided to retire and closed his business.
Herman and Jean have been happily married for 54 years and they consider themselves fortunate; they had three children, two sons, a daughter that died in 1977, 6 grandchildren and 5 great-grandchildren. Herman and Jean belong to Redeemer Lutheran Church and Herman loves to listen to Polka Music. He no longer dances due to poor knee joints. However, hope springs eternal, this summer Herman is to have knee replacement surgery and you never know you may see him and Jean dancing a Polka after his recovery. His other Hobby is dispatching tow trucks and to help his son Denver in his towing business.
Lonnie and Joyce Ferril
T- Miller Wrecker Service
It all started in 1959 in a small town in the Texas Panhandle called Shamrock. Lonnie Ferril, a spunky 19 year old, was driving the school bus for the basketball team of the local high school. In the back was a 14 year old freshman basketball beauty named Joyce. He thought she was kind of cute but Lonnie had places to go. Returning to Shamrock in late 1959 after one of his many youthful excursions he began see Joyce more and more. Finally one evening Lonnie made Joyce a deal. He said that he had been lots of places and done a lot of things, but hadn’t been married yet. Would she marry him? She said –“Yes” and so their life together began.
They were married on August 11, 1960 in Shamrock at her parents’ home and moved to Amarillo not long after. The next year, along came Lonnie Jr. and a new job, Lonnie became an Amarillo City Police Officer. A policeman’s pay is steady, but not great, so at nights and on the weekends in order to make ends meet, he, also, worked for a local towing company T-Miller Wrecker Service. Joyce did her bit obtaining her cosmetology license. As most of us know life in your twenties is often fast and furious and opportunities are often no more than fleeting. Both ambitious, Lonnie saw a fleeting opportunity and in 1992 they started Cherry Ave. Auto Salvage. Amarillo was growing and the auto parts business was profitable. Still driving a wrecker for T-Miller Wrecker Service, in 1963 Lonnie and Joyce bought fifty percent of T-Miller and in 1964; they bought out the other half of the business. This was a big bite for a young couple, but undaunted by the challenge they moved to the salvage yard in 1966. At that time, T-Miller Wrecker Service had two 1956 Ford trucks with homemade wrecker beds and operated out of N. Polk Street. Time passed and the business prospered and on February 18, 1968 Joyce introduced Lonnie to a second son, Byron Ferril. More salvage, more wrecks and more tow trucks, they replaced the old Fords with new units and factory made bodies and began expanding the company, buying trucks and land along the way. At present (2008) T-Miller owns 15 tow trucks, 3 tractors, 5 trailers, and numerous other pieces of equipment that made them “World Famous”! They moved T-Miller from the original location on N. Polk to the present location on E. 10th in 1978. They have added to the salvage yard location which now totals 28 acres, and in 1999 purchased an Auto Crushing business and the equipment that goes with it. T-Miller currently operates 3 VSF locations within greater Amarillo.
The “World Famous” slogan came from a local wrestler, Dory Funk. Back in the 1960’s, he was known locally as “World’s Greatest” so Lonnie picked up on this and said it was because everyone else in town was afraid to claim that they were the “World’s Greatest” at what they do… so he did. He eventually changed it to “World Famous” because no one had claimed that either!! The boys grew and eventually married, Lonnie Jr. married Jeni and together they gave Lonnie and Joyce two grandchildren, David and Megan. Byron is married to Laverne and their union gave Lonnie and Joyce three grandchildren, Madison, Trevor and Christa.
In December of 2003, Joyce was diagnosed with small cell lung cancer; faced with this reality Lonnie and Joyce semi-retired from the business in January, 2004. Joyce passed June 14, 2004, not only did Lonnie lose his soul mate, their children and grandchildren lost the center of their family, the T-Miller employees lost their “MaMa Joyce” but the tow industry lost a close personal friend. Their sons and daughters in-law took charge of the legacy that these two fine hard working people started. However, tragedy struck the family once again in March 2005 when Lonnie Jr. died, leaving Jeni and David to manage the wrecker business, while Meagan provides encouragement from the side line. Those of us privileged to know Jeni Ferril also know that T-Miller Wrecker Service is in good hands. Not quite “World Famous” but definitely “Panhandle Famous” this quite strong lady always has a twinkle in her eye and is quick to smile.
Cernosek Wrecker Service
Deer Park, Passadena, Texas
Larry and Linda married 26 years ago. They have 3 children, Josh, Lance and Leah. Larry started in the towing business in 1975 and then opened a body shop business in 1981. Larry has always been active in politics. He has run for Mayor of Deer Park a few times. He stays on top of what is going on politically and uses his contacts and connections to help small businesses — especially in the towing industry and auto repair business. Larry has received many awards and recognition for his work in his community. He serves on several nonprofit boards including serving at St. Peters Episcopal Church on its vestry which governs the operation of the church. Larry says that business is always “picking up” and he meets the nicest people by “accident”!! He has been Chairman and has served on the board in other various positions for many years. He is a major supporter for Friends of Towing and has been a member and member of TRAA. Many bills would not have been successful legislatively had it not been for the Larry’s tireless efforts.
Glen and Janice Coy
Hidden Valley Wrecker Service
The Coy’s started Hidden Valley Wrecker Service, Inc. from a Shell Service Station on I45N at West Mount Houston Rd. with one small tow truck in 1964 and in the words of Janice, “through hard work and good fortune we have been in business for 40 years.” Times change and in 1975, Shell bought the property and station back from the Coy’s with the vision of turning the station into the 2nd self serve in Houston area. Opportunity knocked and the Coy’s moved to a larger location on West Gulfbank, just east of I45. This new location enabled Hidden Valley to venture into heavy duty towing. Janice says that Glen assured her that life would be much easier with shorter hours and more time off! Ha!Hidden Valley now operates 9 heavy duties and a truck and trailer with the help of 14 employees. Glen and Janice have been married for 45 years and have worked together for 40 of those years. As their business grew, so did their family, two boys Glen Jr. and Keith spent time with their dad and grew into the business and all it involves. As Glen Jr. and Keith matured they shared the load and are a tremendous asset to Glen and Janice. The boys have families of their own, two granddaughters, Kali and Kassi and two great granddaughters, Brandi and Shannon.Active in their community, Glen and Janice have sponsored several Pee Wee Baseball teams and supported the Willis High School Agricultural and 4 H programs for many years. They contribute to programs by sponsoring animals for students as well as providing show awards. Janice says “they have a good life and wouldn’t change anything. “
Lavern Gibson started working in the towing business when he operated a one tow wrecker for his father and mother’s Gulf station in Henderson. With his new wife, Willa, by his side, Lavern began operating independently from his parents as Lavern Gibson Wrecker Service in 1960. As time went on, they gravitated toward doing heavy duty towing only. He had wreckers stationed in Longview, Marshall, Carthage and their main office in Henderson. He later added oilfield and heavy hauling to complement the towing business. He joined Texas Towing & Storage Association soon after it was formed and has served as secretary, vice president and president of the association. He remained a member until he sold his business in 1996. Lavern always believed in maintaining his equipment in top shape and he demanded that his employees promote a sense of professionalism and courtesy. He believed in the value of education and always enjoyed exchanging new ideas with the other members of the association. Lavern went to the first wrecker school in West Palm Beach, Florida and he subsequently sent each operator to school to keep them up on all the latest towing and recovery techniques. For many years, Lavern had the only set of air cushions in East Texas and he regularly went to Texas A & M at College Station to demonstrate their use. Lavern was one of the Texan’s that met in Kansas to form the Towing and Recovery Association of America and remains a director of the Association today. Lavern served as city councilman in Henderson for 14 years and served as Mayor Pro-Tem several times. He is a 52nd Degree Mason and is also active in several local service clubs in Henderson. At the present time, he is deacon of First Baptist Church in Henderson. He was a volunteer fireman for 30 years and he currently serves as a director on the Rusk County Rural Fire District Board. Lavern developed a sterling reputation built on honesty, good service and fair prices. He always said that a satisfied customer would always come back. Above all, you always knew where you stood when you dealt with Lavern. If he told you he would do something, he did it. After 35 years in the towing industry Lavern sold the business in 1995 so that he could spend more time with Willa at their buffalo ranch in Henderson. Although he sometimes misses the action of running the business day to day, he still stays in touch with the industry and the great friends that he made.
Bay City, Texas
Pam Jackson was a beloved wife and partner to her husband, Buster in their towing business in Bay City. She was a co-owner and drove a light duty tow truck while Buster drover the heavy duty. She would assist Buster in turning over trucks and other responsibilities related to towing of vehicles both big and small. Jackson Services is involved in light and heavy towing; truck and trailer repairs; general and diesel mechanics and tire repairs. She and Buster participated in TTSA meetings and was a very productive and resourceful person. Pam was active in the Matagorda County 4 H Youth Development program. She was a 4 H volunteer leader assisting with activities and projects including the rabbit and food projects. She was also a supporter of the Matagorda County Fair. She bided and purchased items from the home economics food action and sponsored the full riding event in the name of Jackson Services. Buster’s life was changed on April 28, 2003 when Pam died very suddenly from an unknown illness. He lost his “best friend” and co worker. We all lost a wonderful woman in the towing industry and suffer that lost along with her family. We are honored to present Pam Jackson as a Hall of Fame recipient.
Raymond Taylor Sr.
Home Motors, Inc.
San Angelo, Texas
Raymond Taylor started his early life as a bell hop in 1940, he grew in the hotel business and became the Assistant Manager of the Cactus Hotel, the first Hilton Hotel in 1948. He managed the St. Angelus Hotel and was at one time owner of Maynard Courts. He began working for oilfield businesses in the late 40’s and in his spare time; he built and drove race cars. This exciting pastime and hobby took Raymond all over the country racing midgets and sprint cars in the late 40’s and early 50’s, In 1955 Raymond married and had two sons, Raymond Jr. and Ronnie, recognizing the dangers he quit racing cars and began promoting the race car business in San Angelo. His business interest expanded and he started selling used cars in the early 60’s and needed a wrecker for repossessing cars for his dealership. The solution was simple; he traded several used cars for a tow truck. The new car dealerships in town noticed the condition of Raymond’s tow truck, clean and well equipped, in no time his services were in great demand and so they asked him to tow their business, too. With oilfield and towing experience Raymond Sr. every vigilant to opportunity, started Home Motors Wrecker Service in 1964. Not long after Home Motors acquired the San Angelo City wrecker contract, a contract the company still holds today. Raymond Sr. expanded the company to include a salvage pool in the 60’s, but sold it when his son Ronnie went to college and Raymond Jr. into the Navy. When the boys came back, they came back as partners in the business.
This new youthful talent provided Raymond with extra time allowing him to acquire commercial rental property and dabble in the cattle market. It also gave Raymond Sr. time to work with different civic organizations. He has served on the Board of the Chamber of Commerce; Board of Directors of TTSA starting in the early 80’s; the San Angelo Boys Club for 8 years and Board of Directors for Sonrisas Therapeutic Riding Club. He also has served in the San Angelo Stock Show and Rodeo for 34 years and the San Angelo Emergency Corps for 26 years. Currently (2008) Home Motors has 14 units including three heavies, a Landohl and many support components. Raymond Sr. is today retired, but continues to visit Home Motors a business that carries his standards and traditions. Raymond’s hobbies and work relations now are going to the ranch to check on the cattle; making an occasional wrecker tow in one of the rollbacks or just staying home working in the yard or playing with the dog.
He still enjoys race cars and was tickled when Raymond Jr. bought a 2006 Roush Mustang, which by chance and a factory numbering error, turned out to be # 00001, Jack Roush’s personal car. It sits covered in one of the company buildings, “It’s a fun car and one day we may sell it” say’s Raymond Jr. “and Jack’s people know where it’s parked.” Raymond Sr. awaits the annual fishing trip to Alaska or Florida with his son Raymond Jr. or grandson Toby who now runs Home Motors. He remembers his friends in the business like Jimmy Speed; Kelly McKnight; Lonnie Ferril; Ron Bergland, and many others who have made the towing industry in Texas famous across the nation.