Parade honors longtime Burnsville man
With a mask on his face and a red, white and blue blanket over his lap, John VanDiver watched from his front yard last Saturday morning as his two-toned beauty rolled past.
It’s a 1956 Oldsmobile 88, turquoise and white — the same make, model and colors of the car he and wife Joan drove at their wedding in 1959.
“He’s very proud of the car,” said VanDiver’s son Jon. “He’s put a lot of effort into making it look the way it does. Babies it.”
Following a foursome of police cars, the 88 was the lead vehicle May 16 in a classic-car parade that started at Edward Neill Elementary School in Burnsville and proceeded past the VanDiver home on Steven Road near Burnsville Parkway.
John and Joan moved in in 1960 and raised five children there. Son Jeff stays with them now and drove the Oldsmobile in the parade.
John, 85, is in home hospice care after a heart-valve replacement in April. He has one weak lung, diabetes and a history of strokes.
The week in the hospital was rough on him, with no visitors because of COVID-19 restrictions, Jon said. The family wanted nothing more than to get him home.
The parade was a way to reconnect his father with family, friends, fellow car buffs and fellow Marine Corps veterans.
John, from south Minneapolis, married Joan Giles, the daughter of Burnsville’s first public works employee and granddaughter of the first town constable, at St. John the Baptist Church in Savage.
John served in the Korean War and worked for the old Northwestern Bell phone company, first as a lineman and then as a test center manager, Jon said.
Through his work with the company’s community service team, he got involved in the Burnsville Fire Muster and chaired the festival in 1992, according to Jon and his wife, Jackie.
John coached Burnsville Athletic Club hockey and softball for many years as his children grew up.
“Community service is just a big part of his life,” Jon said.
John took an early retirement package when the phone company was broken up and found other jobs.
A fourth-degree member of the Knights of Columbus, he managed the old KC Hall in Savage, Jon said.
John also worked for Valleywood Golf Course in Apple Valley, mowing grass and maintaining equipment, and worked at the city of Eagan’s maintenance shop, Jon said.
Jon and his father share the classic-car bug, participating in many back-to-the-’50s events.
“He’s always been an Oldsmobile man,” Jon said. “When Oldsmobile went out of business, he finally broke down and bought a Cadillac. All his life it’s been Oldsmobiles, with Penzoil oil in them.”
Seeing his ’56 Olds parade by was a big lift for John.
“It brought one hell of a smile to his face to see that,” said Jon, a 1984 graduate of Burnsville High School. “It’s been a difficult time for him.”
The Southern Cruzers Car Club was among the groups that turned out nearly 100 vehicles for the parade, Jon said.
Some of the well-wishers were Marine Corps boosters thanking John for his service.
“You couldn’t believe the smile on his face, the tears on his face,” Jon said. “One guy in a ’66 GTO called ‘Semper Fi, Marine,’ and pounded the gas and burnt out, and Dad was like, ‘Oorah!’ He was all fired up.”