Shortly after leaving the island, the raft overturned, dumping tools, farm attachments and other equipment 200 feet to the lake bottom below. The Jeep was securely attached to the raft with chains, however, and they were able to tow it to shore 2½ hours later.
The Jarvis family had a natural connection to automobiles: Ralph owned Jarvis’s Auto Body Shop in Keeseville, providing a location to store the Jeep and assistance in helping Bruce rebuild the historic vehicle, which they would use regularly once repaired until Ralph sold it and his business in 1976.
By 1995, the owners of the former Jarvis’s Auto Body Shop were again selling the property, and Bruce’s brother-in-law, Jeff Dengler, decided to buy the Jeep, now at a cost of $400. Over the next two years, family members again restored the vehicle, completing the project in 2001.
Bruce bought the Jeep back in 2012, and the vehicle has since retired with him to Florida.
JULY 4 PARADE
Ralph, who celebrated his 95th birthday in November, now resides at Meadowbrook Healthcare in Plattsburgh. Bruce has returned to the North Country for the summer, and has brought the Jeep back home as well, both to run in the July 4 parade in Jay, where it was first on public display during the Independence Day parade a decade ago, and to offer his dad some rides in the “family car.”
“I told him if he worked hard and did his exercises, I’d bring the Jeep up for the summer,” Bruce quipped as he and his dad prepared for a ride recently. “He’s doing very well. We’re proud of him.”
Bruce remains just as proud of the Willys-Overland, its forest-green exterior bright and shiny, its upholstery soft and comfortable. The vehicle has won recent awards in antique auto shows, he noted.