People & Places

Studebaker a constant through the generations for Cedar Rapids man

Car that carried father, grandfather home from hospital on hand as another son is born

Nicole and Greg Kuennen pose with their son in front of the 1948 Studebaker Champion and a framed 1982 Gazette new clipping by then staff photographer Duane Crock that shows Greg’s parents, Frank and Shelley Kuennen with the same Studebaker as they brought the newly born Greg home from St. Luke’s Hospital 30 years ago. Safety laws prevented Nicole and Greg from actually driving their son home in the Studebaker. Photographed at the Helen G. Nassif Center for Women’s and Children’s Health at St. Luke’s Hospital in northeast Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Friday, March 18, 2016. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
Nicole and Greg Kuennen pose with their son in front of the 1948 Studebaker Champion and a framed 1982 Gazette new clipping by then staff photographer Duane Crock that shows Greg’s parents, Frank and Shelley Kuennen with the same Studebaker as they brought the newly born Greg home from St. Luke’s Hospital 30 years ago. Safety laws prevented Nicole and Greg from actually driving their son home in the Studebaker. Photographed at the Helen G. Nassif Center for Women’s and Children’s Health at St. Luke’s Hospital in northeast Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Friday, March 18, 2016. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
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CEDAR RAPIDS — On Dec. 15, 1982, Shelley and Frank Kuennen brought their baby son, Greg, home from St. Luke’s Hospital in a 1948 Studebaker Champion.

That vehicle was on hand again Friday as Greg and his wife, Nicole, prepared to bring their newborn son, Kane, home from the very same hospital.

The Studebaker has a long history with the Kuennen family. In June of 1952, Frank’s parents, Wilhelmina and Leonard Kuennen, borrowed the car from their neighbors, Henry and Katie Zimmermeyer, to bring Frank home to their farm in St. Lucas from the hospital in West Union.

Frank acquired the car from the Zimmermeyers in the early 1980s, after it had sat behind their house in a shed for many years.

“When I got it, it had flat tires, the windows were busted out, and we slowly restored it,” Frank said.

It wasn’t fully restored when it came time for Shelley and Frank to bring Greg home.

“It had no seat belts, no blinkers,” Shelley said. “I followed him home closely just in case something went wrong.”

Greg was named for Greg Clark, who was St. Luke’s helicopter pilot at the time, and was a close friend of the Kuennens. In 1982, he alerted The Gazette that the couple was bringing their son home in a Studebaker. A photo of that moment appeared on the front page of The Gazette on Dec. 16. 1982.

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“We were just amazed,” Frank said. “We thought it would be on the inside or something.”

The Kuennens had the photo framed, and had it with them on Friday as Kane left the hospital with his parents.

Greg, who has two daughters — Kapri, 2 and Thea, 18 months — owns the Studebaker now. He said he doesn’t drive it a lot — maybe once a year — but he really wanted to carry on the tradition of having the car at the hospital as a Kuennen boy went home.

This time, though, the Studebaker, driven by Frank, followed Greg and Nicole’s minivan home to Solon. They couldn’t drive home with the baby inside the Studebaker, as the vehicle is equipped for a modern carseat.

“I hope in 30 years or so, Kane will be coming to the hospital and doing the same thing,” Greg said. “Let’s make it four generations.”

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