WDAY: The News Leader

Published October 01, 2013, 09:41 PM

Family buries mechanic's ashes in a transmission

Osnabrock, North Dakota (WDAY TV) - And now one of the best send-offs and good-byes a family could ever give a loved one.

By: Kevin Wallevand, WDAY

Osnabrock, North Dakota (WDAY TV) - And now one of the best send-offs and good-byes a family could ever give a loved one.

When long-time lakes area mechanic Don Tollefson of Pelican Rapids passed away recently, his family gathered to make funeral plans for the 72-year old.

But rather than putting his cremated remains in a fancy cemetery urn, Don's children decided to travel down the non-traditional path.

Why not a transmission?

A Fuller Transmission.

Kevin Wallevand.

Don Tollefson of Audubon followed in his father footsteps.

Don Tollefson Jr – DT’s Son: “Everyone says he was one of the best.”

Both Donald’s loved to tear apart cars and trucks and put them back together again.

Tollefson Jr: “He taught me too, I was working on cars before I could drive.”

For years, DT, as he was known, worked on truck transmissions and engines. From the time he was boy, up until his recent golden years.

Mischelle Hegerty- DT’s Daughter: “He was a strong man. He lifted a transmission off a coworker after it fell on him. When he gave us hugs, we felt his strength.”

When Don passed away a few days ago, his family sat down and decided...

Tollefson Jr: “Let's use a transmission and bury dad in a transmission.”

Hegerty: “I thought that was perfect.”

That's right, a transmission. Don's children decided to bury Dad in a truck transmission.

A friend made some calls and a transmission company gladly agreed to provide the unique ash receptacle.

That is what he did all his life, that is what he was known as, the "gear man."

The Company, Weller Trucking out of Michigan was so impressed with the idea; they shipped the transmission out to the family within a week.

Tollefson Jr: “They cleaned it off and painted everything. Like new. Brand new hoses.”

It would be a special day, Don's burial. Children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews came. No one in Osnabrock, North Dakota had ever been buried in a transmission. It was new to everyone. And so, Don's children grabbed shovels.

Hegerty: “We dug our own grave.”

Finished digging the hole, and then, in an emotional move, they all took sharpies and signed the tranny.

Tollefson Jr: “It is our dad, and it was a personal touch from us to him.”

And the opening on top of the transmission had a door, enough room for Don's ashes and more.

Don Tollefson Jr. took the cover off and put notes and pictures in there for dad to have with him.

Mischelle Hegerty buried it so dad has it with him, notes and pictures.

Imagine what Don the Gear Man thought of all this. He must have been proud. His children loved him so much; they chose to remember him with something he lived with all his life. A little grease, a lot of iron, and a whole lot of memories to take with him home.

It was also healing too. To do that for him. He is looking down and smiling.

Don was buried in a cemetery, just down the road from the homeplace near Osnabrock, where he was born.