Truck stop owner lends a helping hand

When Marcus Harris decided to bring his 13-month-old daughter, Zaniya, to visit his parents in Memphis, he probably never expected to gain a whole new family on the way. But that is just what happened to Harris on Tuesday night when he experienced car trouble while traveling back to North Carolina ...
Jun 3, 2004

When Marcus Harris decided to bring his 13-month-old daughter, Zaniya, to visit his parents in Memphis, he probably never expected to gain a whole new family on the way.
But that is just what happened to Harris on Tuesday night when he experienced car trouble while traveling back to North Carolina on Interstate 40. Luckily, he wasn't far from Uncle Pete's Super Fuel Stop. The U.S. Marine corporal explained while having his car serviced in Memphis, he believes the water pump was not hooked up correctly, causing the vehicle to break down during his journey.
"We don't turn nobody away," Uncle Pete's Owner Pete Norman said. "We have never turned down anybody who needed help, and especially not in this day and time."
Harris, who works as an air traffic controller in Cherry Point, N.C., couldn't believe he found such helpful people.
"I have found a whole family here," Harris said. "It's a blessing. Everyone has been real helpful."
Norman, a Vietnam War veteran, organized the resources to get Harris and his daughter back on the road.
"We found out about (Harris' problem) about 6 p.m.," Norman said. "We called King's Wrecker Service, and they brought the car over here where I had Dan Long look at it. Then we carried it down to Tommy's Auto Repair where they are working on it.
"Technically, (Harris) is supposed to report back at 4 p.m. today (Wednesday), but he's not going to make 4 o'clock," Norman noted. "I called Dot Maxey down at the Community Help Center, and she set him up with a (hotel) room. We fed him and his little girl last night, too."
Norman said he hopes Harris will send him a coffee mug from his Marine unit to add to the quickly growing collection displayed in the restaurant.
"I hope he'll send us a 'unit' coffee cup when he gets back," Norman said. "That's the only price of admission here."
Harris' mother and stepfather made the trip from Memphis on Wednesday morning to join Harris in Lebanon after he called and told them of his car trouble.
"It's just amazing," said Charlene Wright, Harris' mom. "I didn't know people were still this kind in America. I was real nervous and worried when he called me, but he's found a whole family. It's like a big family here."
Some of the regular customers couldn't agree more with Wright's assessment of Uncle Pete's.
"He watches everything that's going on," said Leon Reece, one of several regular patrons of Norman's truck stop.
"When he lays his head down at night, I guess he sleeps pretty good," Reece added. "He has an easy conscience, and he's got the biggest heart of anybody I've met."
While Harris' vehicle was getting the finishing touches at nearby Tommy's Auto Repair, owners Tommy and Lisa Illobre talked about the value of helping out strangers and neighbors alike.
"We have travelers, campers come through here," Lisa Illobre said. "We fix their cars and afterwards, we get letters and cards thanking us. People send us homemade cookies and things. It's those kind of customers that make us stay in this business."
Staff Writer Corinne Galeano can be reached at 444-3952 ext. 15 or by e-mail at cori.galeano@lebanondemocrat.com.

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