Our Friend Don Bellach

By Staff
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Many times, when a loved one or a friend dies, we mourn their
passing and wish we had had one more chance to say ‘I love
you.’ I would like to take that opportunity now to tell my
friend, Don Bellach, what he means to me and my family, before it
is too late.

It all started about a year ago. Well, actually it started back
longer than that. I had wanted a flywheel engine for a long, long
time. Seeing as how I grew up with such things on the farm, and my
wife and I collected antique ‘just about anything,’ a
flywheel engine was just right to fit the bill. We traveled a lot
and even made it to a couple of engine shows, the Florida
Flywheelers at Avon Park being one of them.

A true friend, Don Bellach represents what ultimately draws many
of us to the old iron hobby.

It didn’t take long to get the wife’s approval, and one
day we brought home our first flywheel engine, an 1HC LB 1 to 2 HP.
It was in pretty good shape and didn’t need much work at all.
However, as we all know, this wouldn’t be the last. Next was a
McCormick-Deering 3 HP, then a Monitor with a pump jack, both
‘barn fresh.’

It was during the restoration of the Monitor that I was looking
for a couple of valves. The local mechanics shop was unable to help
me, but referred me to a man they knew who collected small engines,
too. That man was Don Bellach, and it turns out Don lived only
about a mile from my house and had lived in the neighborhood five
years, about as long as I had.

A knock on his front door took him away from his TV and got him
out of his chair. I introduced myself and explained my predicament.
And then we started talking. Following Don through his garage to
his workshop that first time, I began to realize the scope of a
true collector.

Engines lined the shelves from floor to ceiling on both sides of
his garage. A small trailer in the back yard held more engines
partially exposed to the elements. There were more engines in his
workshop, more shelves and even some engines making a row of their
own down the middle of the small building (I didn’t even know
about his Florida room yet!).

Piled, stacked and stored in amongst the engines were parts of
every shape and size. A short search soon located the necessary
valves and even a few extras, ‘just in case.’ Thanking the
man and trying to pay for my small treasures, I soon realized our
brief encounter meant more to him than a few dollars.

We talked a while longer, and soon the conversation turned to
the condition of his show trailer. That’s when I learned of his
heart troubles from a few years ago and how and why he had been out
of the circuit since then. I finally made my goodbyes and headed
home.

As I started back to work on my Monitor with my new valves, I
couldn’t help but think about that old man and his engines. And
over the next few days an idea started to form in my head. Most of
the fun and pleasure of collecting these old irons is getting them
running again and back in ‘show’ condition. I could just as
easily work on Don’s engines as I do my own. I could think of
no other way to repay him for that first (and since then many more)
favor.

Convincing Don to let me take his trailer full of engines back
to my place was quite a chore. After all, who cares about old
people anymore? And why should I want to help him? I, of course,
invited him to come to the house, too. During that first visit my
two kids just clambered all over him. We sat and talked for a
couple of hours about this and that and engines (of course), and
his Navy days. I guess we passed muster, ’cause I inherited the
honor of restoring his show trailer and engines.

Our first big show together was an auction in Washington, N.C.
-took us two trips to bring back all our goodies. Then from there a
show at the Pinellas Park Pioneer Settlement, then Avon Park, then
Waldo and a couple of private shows over the holidays finished out
the year. Each time as official exhibitors, Don signed up my family
and me as members of these clubs. While renewing his old
friendships, we made new ones and brought my family closer
together. Even my 16-year-old son finally found something he liked
to do besides TV and computer games!

A day doesn’t go by that we don’t stop in or call on
Don. He has become our adopted grandfather, father, uncle, brother,
cousin. What familial title can you put on a relationship that
means as much to you, or more, as family does? Don is our friend
and we love him, and we just wanted to tell him one more way.

This is not the end of my story. ‘Cause you see, there is
always another engine show to go to, and even though he is 82 years
old, we know Don will always be with us.

Walt and Lyda Brown, Tim and Megan Brown

Contact engine enthusiasts Walt and Lyda Brown at: 15322 Hwy
574 East, Dover, FL 33527, or email at:
woodnthings@webtv.net.

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