In 1958, Sputnik 1 reentered the atmosphere and burned up; Sir Edmund Hillary reached the South Pole and Russ Fankell and Richard “Jock” Foster began repairing and maintaining cars. About six years ago, Foster passed away and now Fankell is hanging up his wrench. In other words – retiring.
Russ Fankell and his wife Sherry and Richard Foster and his wife Helen, operated Foster and Fankell’s Service Center in Minford since moving to that location in 1969 from their first location at Seventh and Gay streets in Portsmouth.
Asking Russ Fankell what jobs he performs on a vehicle would have been like asking Elvis what his favorite hit was.
“I did everything that you can do here,” Fankell said. “Front-end alignment, turn rotors, did brake work, did strut work, change engines. We sold tires, wheel balancing, we did all except we didn’t rebuild automatic transmissions. I always sent them down to Suburban (Transmissions).”
From 1958 to 2016 one would think Russ has seen many changes in automobiles and he has, but he was not intimidated by the changeover to today’s computer-driven vehicles.
“We’ve seen a lot of changes in automobiles but we had a hand-held analyzer and we kept up with the automobiles and we did as good as anyone else on analyzing the problem and better than a lot of places,” Fankell said.
Now Fankell is officially retiring, and while he was helping to train some guys on front-end alignment Friday, he was ready to make his escape.
“I’m having some health problems with my heart, with my legs and I figured I’d better quit after being 84 1/2 years old, and doing this for 58 1/2 years,” Fankell said. “I leased it to Wes Strickland who has a tire shop and repair shop across the street here. Wes does all that type of work too. So I’m hoping that my customers keep coming in to him.”
His immediate plans may take a while. He recently hauled everything out of his business and put it in a building at his home, and he expects to spend the next year sorting through all of it. In addition to the garage, Russ, Sherry, their son Shane and Shane’s wife Allison, operate Creative Possibilities in New Boston.
“Sometimes I do a little work down there (Creative Possibilities), like replacing the ballasts in the lights and things like that,” Fankell said. “And I can sweep.”
Now, Sherry Fankell, who has kept the books at the garage for several years, is faced with having Russ home every day, but she has it all planned out.
“Actually he’s going to be just as busy there as he was here,” Sherry said. “A lot of honey-do jobs.”
Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.