The Best Medicine: A tribute to Keith Vermillion

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The Best Medicine: A tribute to Keith Vermillion


Post by xr7g428 » 29 Oct 2017, 11:29

Cars mean things to people. In particular, old cars that share our personal history. Keith Vermillion's high school Cougar meant a lot to him. When he was diagnosed with cancer in 2014, restoring the Cougar to it's former glory became central not just to Keith but also to his family and friends. Keith told his story to Legendary Cougar Magazine and I have the honor of sharing it here. Sadly, shortly after we completed the story, Keith lost his battle with the disease. He will be sorely missed.

The Best Medicine

In 2014, Keith Vermillion was diagnosed with stage IV esophageal cancer. Those are hard words to hear. Keith tells HIS story TO LCM EDITOR BILL BASORE of how his Cougar gives comfort to his family and friends during his battle with the disease. HIS Friend Jeanne Christian provides the wonderful pictures.

Keith started dreaming about owning a muscle car when he was just ten years old. Coming from a modest background in the small town of Cordell, Oklahoma, he knew if that dream was to come true it would be his own hard work that made it possible. He mowed lawns and recycled cans. When he could, he worked at his dad's construction business. By the time he was 15 everyone in the family knew how hard he had been working and saving for a car. It was his uncle that found the Cougar, in Weatherford, Oklahoma, a small college town located on old Route 66.
Keith tells us about the day they found the Cougar. "My uncle saw a 1967 Cougar for sale and called to let me know about it. That’s when my dad told me he drove a 1967 Cougar when he was in high school! The car was in fair condition, owned by a college student and had always been a daily driver. I spent the next six months until I turned 16 tinkering with and constantly cleaning and waxing my ‘new’ Cougar. I was drawn to this car because my dad had driven one and it was something different than what many people consider a ‘typical’ muscle car like a Mustang or Camaro."
"My Cougar has been through several phases since I’ve owned it. During my high school days, most of the work was maintenance to keep it going. We added a new cam and roller lifters. I made several front-end repairs including re-chroming the front bumper. My favorite project was having the Cougar repainted. That included adding the black racing stripes onto a white base coat because I felt it highlighted the hood in a way I had not seen on a lot of Cougars. I attended college, got married, started my career, and life got busy. Before I knew it the Cougar had sat inside a garage for over ten years.

At 15-years-old, Keith met his high school sweetheart, Amanda, and she admits the Cougar helped draw her in. Keith says, "Her high school picture has been displayed on my dash for 20 years now. She became my wife and fully supports the restoration of my Cougar." Today they have a daughter, Emily, age 5._Emily calls Keith's Cougar, "Daddy's fast car!"* After college, Keith went on to become an elementary school physical education teacher and high school soccer coach. Now on disability his focus is on his family... and his Cougar. With his diagnosis in mind he decided it was time to get the Cougar back on the road.

Complications from his cancer resulted in Keith having very limited use of his upper body. But it hasn't dampened his enthusiasm. While he wasn't able to work much directly on his Cougar he was still able to hunt down parts and keep the project going.
Keith wasn't alone. He tells us; "In 2015, my father, Dennis Vermillion along with my brother, Aaron Vermillion, and several local friends and mechanics in my hometown of Cordell, Oklahoma, put in months of work to get the Cougar running again. On Labor Day 2016, my family gathered to surprise me by having the Cougar running again. They had drained all fluids, replaced hoses, the gas tank, wiring, spark plugs etc… to get the awesome 289 engine running again. Since that time, we have taken on several restoration projects including replacing the interior seats, interior carpet, floor pans and interior headliner. Also replaced the air cleaner and valve covers, front shocks, power steering cylinder, cleaned and painted the engine, engine bay and rear axle… among many others tweaks." There are many more projects in store.

Friends and family play a big part in Keith's Cougar story. "My mom and dad have supported my passion for my Cougar from the time I was a teenage boy with big dreams of a muscle car. My family also took the lead on restarting the restoration of my Cougar. It has provided so many memorable and bonding moments among my family and is a demonstration of their love and support during my cancer journey. I look forward to weekends with my family working on the car, going to car shows or attending club meetings. My hometown also made ‘cruise for a cure’ t-shirts with my Cougar on them to show their support for my family. Everyone knows one of my favorite things is my Cougar since they’ve seen me around town in it since I was 16."

With the hood raised, Keith's dad Dennis, Keith, his mom Linda and his brother Aaron look on as they decide what to do next with the Cougar that brings them all together

"My Cougar has brought my family together in a trying time with my cancer diagnosis and continued cancer struggle. The amazing people we have met in the Cougar organizations have also provided support and encouragement. Due to complications of my cancer, I have very limited use of my upper body. I miss working directly on my Cougar and certainly miss being the one to drive it, but it means the world to me to see others work on it and take me for a spin anytime I ask!"

Pictured in front of a Cordell, Okla., mural with Keith's Cougar are (from left): Keith, his wife Amanda, his mother Lynda Vermillion, his father Dennis Vermillion, daughter Emily (front) and brother Aaron Vermillion

Some of the vendors/suppliers that have been a huge help are West Coast Classic Cougars, Mustang’s Unlimited, Ken’s Cougars, Summit Racing, Don Cannon NAPA in Cordell, Okla., and my trusted local mechanics: Greg Hill, Bobby Gonzales, Danny and Daniel Watkins Garage, Floyd King, Zach Zanghi and Kyle Gatlin of Gatlin’s Garage.
It hasn't been all about working on the Cougar; it has also been getting out to the shows and having some fun. Keith and his dad have attended car shows, cruise nights and festivals in surrounding communities. Basically they will go anywhere that local classic car owners gather to view cars and then drive a local route. Keith tells us: "I find my Cougar is often one of the only few in its class due to being less common. We also entered the 2017 Mid America Cougar Nationals in Tulsa, Oklahoma, which was the First 50th Anniversary show. It was incredible to see nearly 100 Cougars together!"
Keith is also active in club events. "I am a member of Mid America Classic Cougars organization and my father and I assisted as MACC hosted the 2017 Mid America Cougar Nationals show. MACC also has monthly gatherings and meetings. I am a proud member of the Cougar Club of America. We have found the members of these organizations have been an amazing resource for knowledge and advice for our ongoing restoration of my Cougar."
In closing we asked Keith if there was anything else he wanted to share with LCM readers, and he told us this: "I would like to encourage others to be proud of their daily drivers. They may not be in pristine shape to be showroom cars, but they have history and have lasted the test of time and brought speed and pride to their owners over the miles and over the years!" We could not possibly agree more! LCM

Keith, his wife Amanda, and daughter Emily
Bill Basore, Editor / Publisher
Legendary Cougar Magazine
Currently in the Cat House
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'68 XR7-G 428CJ C6, Tilt-Away, AM, Black Cherry
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Re: The Best Medicine: A tribute to Keith Vermillion


Post by ccarney69 » 29 Oct 2017, 12:17

A good story with a sad ending. I Remember his car from Tulsa. Sounds like he was a true good guy all the way around, very courageous. Condolences to his family.
1968 GT-E 427 Standard Nordic Blue/Black Décor, driver
1969 XR7 R Code 4 Speed Yellow/Black Top Black Interior, current project no.1
1969 XR7 Q Code C6 Green/Black Top Dark Ivy Green Interior, current project no. 2
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Re: The Best Medicine: A tribute to Keith Vermillion


Post by 1967 S Code » 29 Oct 2017, 15:40

My thoughts and prayers goes out to Keith's family. Thanks for sharing his story Bill.

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1967 Standard
Dan Gurney Special

6.5 Litre, Black / Black, AC Whisperaire, Am/FM, Sports Console,
Front and Rear Bumper Guards, Clock

1968 XR7-G
302 4V, Lime Frost / Black Leather, AM/FM, Black Vinyl, Tilt-A-Way
Heavy Duty Suspension, Power Disc Brakes, Rader Wheels

1968 XR7-G Hertz
390 4V, Black Cherry/ Dark Red Leather, Black Vinyl, Sunroof, Tilt-A-Way,
Cruise, Rear Defrost, AC Whisperaire

1968 Convertible Conversion "Top Cat"
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Re: The Best Medicine: A tribute to Keith Vermillion


Post by badcatt » 29 Oct 2017, 18:28

Thanks for sharing Bill. I wish I had met Keith.
Neal Jacobson.
1970 XR-7 White "Ginger"
1970 XR-7 Convertible Blue For Sale.
1971 XR-7 Bright Blue with Blue "Up Beat" interior For Sale.
1970 Standard 428CJ Competition Yellow The New Money Pit.
See ya on the hiways,
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they are an entire banquet
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Re: The Best Medicine: A tribute to Keith Vermillion


Post by SPLINEHEAD » 30 Oct 2017, 05:22

badcatt wrote:
29 Oct 2017, 18:28
Thanks for sharing Bill. I wish I had met Keith.
+1 prayers.

Gary Hill
Pole Cat
1969 XR7 390 S code 4bbl C6 3.0 TrueTrac rear end

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