Donald E. "Donnie" Palmer Jr.
Donald E. ¿Donnie¿ Palmer Jr. gets a hug from his wife, Joanne E. Palmer, in this picture. (Submitted Photo)
The drive was enhanced with country music — the older kind — and might include a stop to pick up ice cream when they visited Donnie's "people" in Williamsport, said Rodney Palmer, Donnie's oldest son.
Donnie kept his vehicles in immaculate condition, and a spin down Hopewell Road might mean washing the car down by the stream, as many others did. A bucket and towel were stowed in the trunk, just in case.
Rodney remembers his dad's Studebaker, a new 442 Oldsmobile, coupe-style cars, a Ford Bronco and a Chevy van sporting a painted-on hot-air balloon. Donnie also took Rodney along as a youngster to the Mason-Dixon Dragway when he raced cars.
Donnie was known for his talents in auto-body repair and paint restoration, as well as restoration of antique cars. He worked at several body shops in the area before opening Donnie E. Palmer Body Shop more than 35 years ago.
"You might as well say genetics. His dad did it all his life," Joanne Palmer said of her husband's career choice.
Son Eric, the youngest of the Palmer children, worked part time with his father, doing some sanding and minor body repair. He remembers learning to drive in his father's 1970 Mustang.
Donnie was owner/operator of his shop, first located in Pinesburg, then at Rodney's Williamsport garage on Falling Waters Road, a business that grew by word-of-mouth, Joanne said.
Rodney said he had the pleasure of being able to watch and photograph his father at work doing recent restoration jobs.
Donnie did paint restoration jobs for several NFL players, including Dan Wilkinson of the Washington Redskins and other teams, and Fulton Walker, who played for the Miami Dolphins and Los Angeles Raiders.
"He was a very talented person. Nothing was too hard for him to try," said Joanne, who described her husband as a perfectionist.
"Donnie was a craftsman. He was a very unique person," said Joanne's brother, Jerry Cole.
Donnie and Joanne Cole met at a teen dance club in Hagerstown. Joanne was from Detroit, but moved to Hagerstown when she was about 12 with her mother, after her parents divorced.
After they met, Donnie made a practice of coming from Williamsport for the club.
Joanne remembers how Donnie enjoyed listening to Elvis Presley. She added that the Frank Sinatra song "I Did it My Way" always reminded her of Donnie.
"The music has played in my mind since I have lost him," she said.
Joanne said there are no wedding pictures because the couple eloped in 1956. Asked how old they were when they married 55 years ago, she said "too young."
"But it seemed to work," Joanne said. "We had our ups and downs. It wasn't perfect, but you have to stick together and make it work."
The Palmers lived in several places, usually in Hagerstown's South End, before settling on Guilford Avenue. The house in which they lived for about 50 years was selected in part because of the garage in the back for Donnie.