- Associated Press - Saturday, August 29, 2015

FOUNTAIN CITY, Wis. (AP) - Randy Gotz spent every waking minute he could last summer working on a project in his garage.

It was a classic car project to restore an automobile.

But not any kind of classic car.

Gotz turned a 1984 hearse into a replica “Ghostbusters” car, the Winona (Minnesota) Daily News (http://bit.ly/1KnQZJp ) reported.

He had planned the project for 10 years, but not for the reasons you might think. Gotz isn’t exactly a die-hard “Ghostbusters” fan. He’s not a gearhead, ether. The Fountain City man had done hardly any restorative work on cars until last summer, and said until he got going on the hearse, he could identify a hammer, wrench, and screwdriver, and that was about it.

Building his car, now nearly finished and a part of showcases at several area events, such as Winona’s Steamboat Days, was driven by a different desire.

After spending 26 years as a law enforcement officer for Buffalo County, Gotz decided it was time to retire. That lasted two months. He couldn’t stand being a couch potato, so to occupy some of his time, he turned to creating a holiday lights display on his house - with about 20,000 lights.

Then he found a new project.

Gotz’s wife, Deb, was diagnosed with Stage 4 colon cancer in 2009 and given three months to live. She fought hard and survived a year-and-a-half, passing away in August 2010.

They were together for 35 years, stood by each other’s side through thick and thin, raised four children. Deb loved kids, and did daycare throughout the county for many years.

So Gotz decided to find a way to help Deb’s love of helping kids live on.

He built his “Ghostbusters” car, he said, to make a difference in kids’ lives - adults, too - and bring joy and happiness to those who devote their time and energy to surviving and fighting diseases.

Gozt said he wants to get his name and car out there so he can use the “Ghostbusters” replica for benefits and fundraisers for organizations such as The Ronald McDonald House, Red Cross or American Cancer Society. He said he’s just one among many; there are “Ghostbusters” clubs across America who use cars for benefits and visiting hospitals.

“Seeing someone smile after interacting with the car is my favorite thing,” Gotz said. “If I had a dollar for everyone that walked away from my car at Steamboat Days smiling, I’d have a lot of them.”

After experiencing firsthand how a terminal disease can impact an individual, as well as a family, Gotz said he just wants to help people in those kinds of situations in any way he can.

His work has already drawn quite a bit of attention. He said he gets stopped by people fairly often, kids and adults alike, who ask how his car is coming - or if he’s planning to put up his massive Christmas light display around his house again. When he parks the car in his yard, folks will stop, linger, take photos.

The journey to build the car wasn’t easy, he said. After all the planning, finding all the correct parts was still the hardest thing. He hunted auctions, perused garage sales.

“You can’t just find all the parts in one place,” Gotz said, “You’ll find one piece here and one there until you have everything you need.”

Gotz paid incredible attention to detail when working on the car - he’s still doing touch-up work a year later. He’s included his own elements to the car to make it unique, adding things like a skeleton sitting in the passenger seat holding a drive-thru tray full of fast food, skeleton creatures that sit on the hood.

At this year’s Steamboat Days car show, there was a consistent line of a half-dozen people, kids and adults alike, waiting to take pictures with the car. Gotz played the part, too, decked out in full Ghostbusters attire so people could take a picture with him.

He loves making his work accessible to visitors, he said—it’s all part of the plan.

“I don’t want to have the car roped off or anything like that, I want to let the kids be able to sit around and play in the car so they can get the full enjoyment from it,” Gotz said.

Residents in the Winona, Minnesota, area will get a chance to see the car again this summer; Gotz is planning to bring it to the Goodview Days car show on Saturday. Then he’ll put it away - until next summer.

Maybe he’ll have garnered more attention from the charities he hopes to help serve. Regardless, he said, if he can continue to draw a few smiles here and there, change a kid’s or a family’s day for the better, that’s all he’s after.

“I want to do something to help somebody out somehow, I don’t care how it is or how I do it,” Gotz said.

Busting ghosts is certainly a good place to start.

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