MANATEE -- A convoy of pickup trucks with American flags flying from their beds didn’t need a judges’ appraisal to score points during the first Patrick L. Lay Memorial Car Show.
The trucks were driven by school friends of Army Spc. 4 Patrick L. Lay II, the former Braden River High School agriculture student who was killed in August while on a combat operation in Afghanistan. Braden River High’s FFA held the car show to launch scholarships in Lay’s honor.
As they made their way into the school’s parking lot Sunday morning for the car show, the trucks made a powerfully patriotic statement.
“When those trucks rolled in with their flags flying, it was so emotional,” said Vanessa Giammanco, who along with fellow Braden River agriculture teachers and FFA advisers Deb Barry and Brett Wheeler organized the show.
Held on a warm and slightly windy day, the event drew 54 classic cars and raised $2,000, all of which will go toward future Patrick Lay scholarships for deserving Braden River High School graduating seniors, Barry said.
The first Lay scholarships will be awarded in May.
“It makes me proud to see how the community came out to support this event,” said Barry, gazing at hundreds of onlookers.
“We wanted to come out because we knew it was a memorial,” said Roger and Judy Morelock, whose Caspian blue 1965 Mustang with 14,000 original miles won a lot of fans at the show.
Brian Marquette’s royal blue 1971 Oldsmobile Cutlass 442-W30, however, claimed the first-ever Lay Memorial Car Show “People’s Choice Award” as the most popular car in the event.
Joann Steiff, 21, Lay’s fiance, handed out 18 awards to winning car owners, who all received wooden plaques hand made by Braden River High School students.
The royal blue Olds
Brian Marquette’s son, Weston Keith Marquette, graduated with Lay in 2008. Weston died from lymphoma two years later, at age 20.
Weston Marquette died on Dec. 6, 2010, just eight months before his friend, Patrick Lay, would die.
Weston got to drive the just-restored royal blue Olds for a short while before he died, Brian Marquette said.
“We got it done in time,” an emotional Marquette said moments after receiving his award Sunday from Steiff.
First Christmas without him
This will be the first Christmas Eve in 21 years that Patrick Lay doesn’t show up in his grandmother’s kitchen to help her cook his favorite meal -- roast, potatoes and green beans -- said grandmother Carolyn Eason, who attended the car show along with Lay’s mother, Stefenie Hernadez.
“We miss him,” Eason said.
Hernandez, who made sugar cookies from scratch with her son every Christmas, expects a rough patch ahead.
“It’s especially hard now, at the holidays, because he should be coming home,” Hernandez said.
Patrick’s truck convoy
The convey of trucks that raised goosebumps for many was the work of Steiff, who now owns Lay’s black Ram truck, and Chris Smith, 20, Brandon Stubbs, 21, Robert Foy, 22, Michael Egloff, 21, and Eric Briggs, 21.
All were members of Lay’s Braden River graduating 2008 class except for Smith and Briggs, who graduated in 2009.
“We knew Patrick would love seeing the American flags flying today,” Briggs said.
“Patrick gave his life defending his country, to make sure we could all be standing here safe,” Stubbs said.
Donations to The Patrick Lay Memorial Scholarship for graduating Braden River High seniors may be sent to Patrick Lay Scholarship, c/o Braden River High School, 6545 State Road 70 E., Bradenton, Fl. 34203.
For further information, call Vanessa Giamanno at 941-751-8230, ext. 2141.
Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-748-0411, ext. 6686.