Ernie Baals (1924-2011) passed away this morning after a brief but strong fight with cancer.
Ernie was a southern New Jersey legend when it came to ‘old cars’ with his first personal car being a Model T and he has never been without one since. That first car was overhaued by him when he got it and for a shake-down cruise he drove it from New Jersey to Texas and back on a just because basis. He was originally a mechanic who started his trade before WW2 and with his photographic memory could recall every detail of every car model he ever worked on often right down to proper part numbers and the clearance dimensions he set them to.
Ernie collected T’s, A’s, B’s, Kaiser-Frasier’s, Edsel’s, Amphibicars, and from about 1970 steered his efforts into military vehicles from WW2 and was a founder of MVCC (later MVPA).
Ernie never missed an outing no matter what the weather or the time of year for any good cause to promote the old car hobby and would either show up in his 1926 Coupe, or his WW2 Radio Command car, or his MB jeep. Ernie also had an unbroken chain of Hershey attendance and could always claim no one had a longer streak going for them as when you start with #1 who could beat him?
Ernie was an Iwo Jima Survivor and exemplified the ‘once a Marine, always a Marine’ as a poster child for the Corp his entire life. At 85 he could still pick up a transmission from the floor and carry it to the other end of his shop with not so much as a groan and could be seen outside braking down the big military tires from their rims by hand.
While saddened by the loss, I’m happy to say he was a big part of my life for the past 45 years. I stopped over to visit him last week and spent a few hours with him, he still wanted to talk cars! The old car hobby has lost a legend…yet he has delegated his knowledge with a legacy to thousands across the USA and Europe freely over the years.
My condolences to the loss of your friend.
I met Ernie through a local Model A club (although when we talked, it was about Model Ts). It was a real pleasure to know him and I'm sorry to hear the news.
Those who took to Hershey and stopped by just to reminisce at the 10 spaces of WW2 military stuff probably met Ernie at Hershey...