February 14, 2014 1:45PM
Nick Chase was on his third Pontiac Grand Prix.
There was just something about that car. The body, the style, the look, the feel. He planned to take this silver 1999 model and make it his own. New tires. New paint job. Replace the suspension. The works.
Then tragedy struck.
Chase, a 22-year-old Pittsburg State senior from Olathe, Kan., majoring in automotive technology, died on Sept. 14 as a result of a two-vehicle accident at the intersection of Missouri Highways 126 and 43.
It was one of the hardest days of John Sear’s life.
“Nick was my best friend,” Sear, an automotive technology major from Overland Park, Kan., said. “We met here at Pitt State, and our friendship took off almost immediately. He was such a great guy and a great friend. We loved talking about cars.”
As a tribute to his late friend, Sear took it upon himself to complete the work that Chase started on his most recent Grand Prix.
“It was the least I could do for Nick,” he said. “He loved that car. I mean, he loved it. He bought it last summer, and he was so enthusiastic about it and ready to make it his own.
“I couldn’t let that work go unfinished,” he said. “And this is exactly what he’d do for me.”
Since Chase’s death last fall, Sear has replaced various mechanical parts in the car. He has put on new tires. New headlight covers. Now, he’s starting on the paint job Chase was anxious to complete.
Much of the work was conducted at the PSU Kansas Technology Center, where Pitt State students and faculty helped with the improvements.
“It was special to me to have faculty and other students giving their time to do this for one of our fellow Gorillas,” Sear said, “and to be able to work on Nick’s car at the tech center meant a lot.”
In many respects, the project has helped Sear cope with the loss of his best friend. In others, it’s been a painful experience.
“It’s an emotional project,” he said. “I feel a sense of joy knowing that I’m helping Nick fulfill one of his dreams. It’s also extremely hard because every time I go to work on the car, I think of him. And I miss him. Man, I miss him.”
Once the project is complete, Sear plans to sell the car and donate the proceeds to an endowment that was set up at Pitt State by the Chase family.
“I think selling it will be the hardest part of all,” he said. “Ever since Nick died, I’ve had a daily reminder of him sitting in my driveway. It’s going to be very tough when that’s gone.”