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In one of the recent AACA magazines, the passing of Rolland Bushner was posted. I met Rolland for the first time at the Vintage Tour put on by Judy and Barker Edwards in Fuqua-Varina, NC. At the time, I thought it a little odd that an elderly fellow would travel some 300+ miles by himself in an early open Packard touring car. When I first walked up to him, he was fiddling with something under the hood. I believe it was a water pump leakage problem.

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Rolland went up to one of the host region’s tour members and asked for a rider as he knew he could not read a tour book and drive a big Packard too. Franklin Gage raised his hand up to be Rolland’s “navigator”! To say these two were an unlikely pair would be an understatement. Rolland was a little hard of hearing, and Franklin had trouble directing him while reading the tour book too. I really hope that Franklin can add something to this story, as only Franklin can.

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It’s humbling to me to realize that the folks we are losing daily were the backbone of our nation’s biggest growth gain. Please just read what Rolland had done for our country.

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I’m glad I got the chance to meet you, Rolland. I just know you’re enjoying the ride up above.

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Wayne Burgess

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A special thanks to Dawn Dreibus, editor of the Smoky Mountain Region of North Carolina for forwarding Rolland's information to me. Dawn had published this in her newsletter which got my attention. Dawn told me that Rolland's niece, Sara Stevens of Colorado, had sent this article to her.

Rolland Bushner

Rolland Haggart “Bush” Bushner died Tuesday, December 27, 2011 at the Smith-Phayer Hospice House in Landrum, SC. He was 91.

Many knew this slight, cheerful, unassuming man, but few knew about his remarkable life—a life that took him across the globe to serve his country in war and peace.

Bush was born on December 13, 1920 in Joplin, MO. His mother was Grace Hawbaker Haggart and his father was Harold Park Haggart. Later, following his mother’s second marriage, to Richard H. Bushner, Bush adopted his stepfather’s name. He attended Joplin Junior College from 1938-40 and obtained a Bachelor of Music degree in piano from Kansas State Teachers College in Pittsburg in 1942.

Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Bush learned to fly in a civilian pilot training program and subsequently volunteered for the U.S. Army Air Force, where he served in the 2nd Division’s 466 Bomb Group. With his crew of nine men, Lt. Bushner piloted B-24 Liberator bombers on 35 missions over Germany and occupied France during 1944-45. Only one in four B-24 crewmen survived a full 35-mission tour. But rather than punching a ticket home, Bush volunteered to fly weather reconnaissance missions over Germany in an unarmed British-made de Havilland DH98 Mosquito. Made mostly of wood, with massive Rolls-Royce engines, the two seat Mosquito was perhaps the fastest piston-driven aircraft of the war. Bush flew the equivalent of a half-tour in the Mosquito before the war came to an end.

One can hardly imagine making the transition from wartime pilot to classical pianist, but Bush did it. Returning to the states in 1945, he attended New York’s prestigious Julliard School of Music. But service to country once again beckoned, and after a single term at Julliard, he joined the U.S. Foreign Service. Thus began a long and distinguished career as a diplomat.

During the 18-year period immediately following the war, Bush served in a variety of settings and capacities. In Tokyo, he was assigned to the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers (SCAP) U.S. Political Advisor’s office, 1946-48. There followed a series of assignments wherein he served as political reporting officer at U.S. embassies in Bangkok, Thailand (1948-52); Pusan, Korea (1952-53); Tehran, Iran (1953-55); and the American Consulate in Khorramshahr, Iran (1955-56), where he opened the new U.S. Consulate. Returning stateside, he spent three years at the State Department as Thailand Desk Officer and one year at the U.S. Air Force War College in Montgomery, AL. His final assignment for the Department of State was as Counselor for Political Affairs at the American Embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia from 1960 to 1963.

In 1963, Bush left the State Department to accept a position with the nonprofit, nonpartisan Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), considered to be the nation’s most influential foreign policy think-tank, headquartered in New York City. As Director of Committees on Foreign Relations from 1963 to 1987, his job was to arrange for statesmen and foreign affairs experts to address some 36 CFR affiliated committees scattered across the nation. During this period, he earned a Master’s degree in Government from New York University in 1976.

During his CFR years, while living in an 1883-vintage home in New Jersey, Bush developed an interest in antique automobiles, and in 1972 he bought a 1926 Packard 8 Touring car, Series 236. This was followed in 1974 by the purchase of 1933 Packard club sedan, which had been sitting in an icehouse for 17 years. He spent much of the next 20 years lovingly restoring the grand vehicle. Over the years, his classic car collection would grow to include a ’54 Packard, ’57 Chrysler Imperial, ‘60s era MG, ’66 Lincoln Continental convertible, and’69 Buick Riviera. For Tryon locals, however, perhaps Bush’s most recognizable vehicle was an old multicolored Volkswagen Beetle that he drove around town for a number of years.

In1987, Bush came across an article in a retirement newsletter that touted Tryon, NC as a good place to spend retirement. He bought a home here and lived out a happy retirement. Bush’s Tryon home reflected his unique experiences. The baby grand piano, photos and awards from World War II, unique furnishings and eclectic artwork from across the globe, letters from dignitaries and heads of state, and his stunning collection of antique automobiles all stood as a testament to a long journey on a road less traveled.

He was active even in his final months. In August, the Smoky Mountain AACA sponsored him on an Honor Air flight to visit the World War II Memorial in Washington, DC. As a measure of their esteem, 60 club members greeted him upon his return flight to Asheville. The following month, the club honored him as Outstanding Member of the Year.

Rolland Bushner was active in three regions of the Antique Automobile Club of America (AACA): New Jersey, Sparkle City, and Great Smoky Mountain. He also belonged to the Blue Ridge Packard Club, Foothills MOPAR Club, the Riviera Owners Association, the Southeast British Motor Car Owners Club, and the Southern Region Lincoln and Continental Car Club. He was a member of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship and a friend of the Congregational Church of Tryon.

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In the late 1980s, I gave Roland a ride in our 1930 Packard boattail speedster during a Packard club meet in Asheville. I had completely forgotten about the event until I met up with him again about 3 years ago at the AACA Charlotte national meet. He recalled the day as if it were yesterday, and it felt good to me that I was able to give this wonderful man such a memory (my wife tells me that most of the rides she takes with me are memorable!!, but I always sense sarcasm when she says it). Rolland was such a gentle man. Fortunately, after our reunion at Charlotte, it will be near impossible to forget him.

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Mr Bushner was a very modest man. In 1983 we bought, for a customer, an unrestored '32 Packard that he was selling for a friend. I judged in AACA several times with him over the years and remember asking him what he did for a living before he retired. All he would ever volunteer was that he worked for a non profit. He always asked about the Packard we bought. Even after he moved to NC he traveled to NY, actually northern NJ, one week/month to finish the restoration of his '33 Sedan.

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I remember the first time I had met Bush, which was at a national show in Greenville (I think that was in '03??). A club member who had brought his girlfriend with him (and hadn't much of a clue about old cars), so I walked her around the parking lot at the host hotel, giving her a brief bit of info of what I knew about what we were seeing parked around the lot. We finally ventured around to the back, where Bush was checking under the hood of his '58 Imperial which had its original Hemi under the hood. We walked up to the car & I was telling her of the significance of hemi & other assorted tidbits about the car. Bush's jaw dropped, his eyes got wide, & stated that it sounded like I knew more about his car than he did. I seriously doubt that, but from then on I had someone interesting to hang out with at a lot of AACA shows.

At last April's show in Charlotte, Bush got to show his '33 Packard that he finally finished. My hubby & I went to talk with him for a while, & he expressed his disappointment in not being able to see many of the show cars for not being able to walk very far. I told him that wouldn't do, so I went hunting up any AACA member with a golf cart to remedy the problem. Within 15 minutes I got the old fella a ride, & it looked like two kids in a candy store with them making over every car they went by. That just made my whole week.

I really miss seeing him around at club functions.

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In the article that Wayne posted, it mentions the Honor Air flight that Bush got to take to DC, and those who met him at the airport on his return home. Here are a couple of pictures of that. The fella on the left in the flag shirt helping push Bush had a big hand in making sure that Bush had a spot on that flight.

Dawn

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A Rolland Story as only Franklin Gage could tell it. Franklin is a Virginia Bull Run member, plus a member of numerous other clubs, too many to mention here.

Thanks Franklin!

I had registered my '27 Chevrolet for the Vintage Tour Wayne refers to, but due to a meltdown of my '51 Chevy in Tennessee on the way to a Texas tour prior to the Vintage Tour, I couldn't get home to bring the '27. Tourists Don & Carol Barlup graciously offered a seat in their Pullman so I rode with them at first, but then it started having a mechanical problem. At the same time I now needed a ride I learned Rolland needed a navigator - a perfect match and as it turned out a fortunate one for us both! As his obituary and other comments show, he was a very interesting character with wonderful stories of his life to tell and a great sense of humor. I think he made my tour experience better than if I'd gotten the '27 there. In his late 80's, his mind was as sharp as a tack; physically he had issues as did his '26 open Packard which he drove 300+ miles to the tour, but he addressed them with good cheer. Once we 'got in the groove,' all went well with many experiences that make me smile to this day, and maybe you will too. For example:

---His service as a pilot in WW II had left him practically deaf, so especially with the noise of the open car my lungs got a good workout shouting directions to him.

---He also had macular degeneration, so his eyesight was less than perfect. I'd help him anticipate what he had to steer around, such as other tourists. When I'd warn him there was a Model T ahead, he'd groan poetically, "Again? Oh no, they're so slow!"

---He wore a body brace and used a cane necessitated by an injury from being rear-ended in his '56 Packard, so he couldn't turn to check for traffic behind and next to him when he wanted to merge or change lanes. The '26 had no turn signals and it was obvious after about a half dozen very near-collisions that other (younger) motorists had no idea what his hand signals meant. So we agreed: No lane changes until I told him it was OK, and just keep both hands on the steering wheel.

---Not alone among 'mature' men who need to go when they need to go, he appreciated all the listings of restrooms along the way tour book authors Barker & Judy Edwards had included. But despite his planning ahead, sometimes the need to go was a little more urgent than anticipated. You would be amazed how fast an octogenarian+ driving an octogenarian+ Packard can drive to and run inside a gas station!

---One morning as we were tooling along, he said he didn't think the floor shifter felt right. As we were making a left turn across traffic into the parking lot of one of our destinations and he was downshifting, it came off in his hand. I usually only know enough to be dangerous, but fortunately I was able to figure out how the shifter was supposed to be assembled and after some struggle got it put back together and we proceeded to lunch after a brief test drive in the parking lot.

---When traveling at Interstate speeds, Rolland was able to steer pretty well. But partly because of the body brace, and partly because he'd had the steering worked on resulting in it being tight, he really couldn't steer at lower speeds. So I was happy to help push and pull the wheel from the driver's seat; the 1926 version of power steering. Rolland opined that he thought Barker & Judy had put more turns than necessary in the tour route. The Packard was frequently in need of oil, water, starting fluid, etc. and he was fine with doing all that, except he had a struggle with lifting the long, heavy Packard hoods so I was pleased to assist. But his determination and independence were evident when if I was a moment late in returning to the car he'd have managed to open them himself.

We kept up by email after the tour and I ran into him at a couple AACA events afterward, including when he'd brought another Packard that had been a very long restoration project to the Southeastern Spring meet where West did a profile on it and him for Antique Automobile. As others have noted, we will miss him but I rejoice that he had 91 years to enjoy this world and still bring fond memories for those of us who came to know him.

Franklin Gage<O:p</O:p

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Bush was a member of the NJ Region for many years and went on about every annual summer tour for many years. He was great with our three children who enjoyed his stories. He would often ride with my wife and I during the later tours as his driving in the later years could be a little interesting to say the least. We always enjoyed his riding with us as he was an endless source of stories from his foreign service.

Often we also had dinner together so he was with us quite a bit. We certainly will miss him on the tours and seeing him on a couple of the southern tours that we attended after he moved south.

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First time we met him he called out to us from under the unrestored '33 where he was energetically wire brushing off the accumulated crud. It's great that he was able to finish and show the car.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I just found this topic - not really sure why it was put under Newsletter Editors and Webmasters (?)

In the picture I included, you will see a man smiling, enjoying a the simple pleasure of kite flying in the countryside. I see my dear friend and fellow car enthusiast, the late Rolland Bushner, 'Renaissance Man' smiling from the heart, enjoying the simple pleasures of kite flying in the coutryside.

Godspeed my friend.

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Edited by Uncle_Buck (see edit history)
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