- Associated Press - Monday, January 30, 2017

WATERTOWN, Wis. (AP) - Sometimes life offers wonderful coincidences.

For Watertown’s Rich and Wanda Udovich, and former Wisconsin resident Dennis Braby, one of the strangest and most wonderful of these is being realized soon.

In 1988, Udovich lost a friend and ultimately became owner of that man’s 1976 Corvette.

This past Christmas, Udovich received what he thought was a Christmas card. The correspondence however, turned out to be a proposal from the vehicle’s original owner to buy the car back.

“The original owner (Braby) tracked the car down and found it,” Udovich said Monday as he and his wife, Wanda, sat at the kitchen table of their Watertown home overlooking the Rock River.

Udovich said as he enjoys his golden years, he has also been finding it increasingly difficult to get in and out of the low-slung vehicle. He said he and Wanda thought it might be time to sell, but for some reason they just could not pull the trigger. Then came the Christmastime correspondence from Braby, who now resides in Draper, Utah - 25 miles south of Salt Lake City.

“In 1963, a man who worked for my father drove up in a brand new, ‘63, split window coupe Corvette and took me for a ride,” Braby opened his letter to Udovich. I sat straddling the center console and he let me shift through the gears as we sped down the street. That is when I fell in love with Corvettes and I swore at that time someday I would have a Corvette of my own. I was 8 years old.”

Braby’s letter went on to say he watched the Corvette evolve over the years with great interest as he bided his time and saved his money. In the spring of 1976 he bought his first Corvette.

“I got it just how I wanted it - white, black leather with a four-speed. That very same car is the one you now own,” Draper wrote.

Braby told Udovich he had planned to keep the car the rest of his life, but when he was still young his family life intruded.

“It was either sell my beloved car and buy a house or live in the car,” Braby said. “Well, you can’t raise children in a car, so I very, very reluctantly sold my car. I made a promise to myself that someday I would find that car and beg and plead with the current owner to sell me back my car and he would find my story a good one and agree … That brings us up to date and you are now the owner that I beg and plead to sell me back that car … For me, it would simply be a longtime dream come true.”

“I thought it was really amazing to get that letter,” Udovich said.

“We were skeptical at first,” Wanda said, but she noted all was soon cleared up and it was agreed a sale of the car to Braby would be the right thing to do at this point in everyone’s lives.

“(Braby) said, ‘You just made my Christmas,’” Rich said of Braby’s reaction to being told the transaction would go through. “And we felt the same way. We didn’t want to get rid of the car, but who better to sell it to? We worked on a number and he already sent us half of it.”

“This will just bring tears to your eyes,” Wanda said. “(Braby) had done his research and Rich provided the paperwork. We’re just so glad we can sell it to him.”

Braby, who attended high school at Brookfield East while living in Wisconsin, told the Daily Times Monday evening he had been watching for, and hoping to find, the white Covette for 40 years.

“I really began searching in earnest for the car in the past six months,” Braby said, noting his children are now grown.

He said he contacted Corvette clubs of Wisconsin and looked at all the 1976 models he could find.

“I went to the various vehicle-locating websites and looked at anything I could find to help me,” he said. “I was told finally to contact the Wisconsin Department of Motor Vehicles, so I contacted the DMV and I filed a form and paid them some money. I told them I wanted to trace the vehicle’s history for historic reasons and they sent me Rich’s name. I wrote him a letter and heard back after a few weeks. He called me on Christmas Day and it was the best Christmas present I’ve had in a long, long time.”

Braby called the once “lost” Corvette his dream car.

“The car had to go and I wept that day,” he said of the moment he had to sell the masterpiece in 1977 after owning it for only a year and half.

He said he was anxious as he composed and sent his letter to Udovich.

“It was like shooting a letter across the cosmos, or dropping bait over the side of a boat and just hoping you get a bite,” he said. “When Rich responded, I was elated. I had to pinch myself to make sure I heard him properly - that he was willing to sell it to me. When Rich called he was such a super, super nice guy. He and Wanda said when they got my letter they knew why they had been dragging their feet on selling it up to that point. When I got that call back from them, it was like, ‘Is this real?’”

Rich said Braby is in the process of setting up a vehicle transfer company to move the car to Utah.

Since acquiring the Corvette in 1988, the Udoviches have put 25,000 miles on it driving all over the state of Wisconsin, enjoying all the state has to offer in terms of scenery. They said they would take the stock vehicle out at different times of the year, as long as the weather and road conditions were not detrimental to it.

“I’ll miss it,” Rich said, with Wanda adding, “If it was a nice, sunny day, we’d go out all day in it. It was a nice car to use to see Wisconsin.”

Rich said in order to part with the vehicle, he tried to put himself in Braby’s position.

“We thought about selling it a few years ago, but we didn’t, so this was meant to be,” Rich said. “When I read the letter, I knew right away it was the original owner and I told Wanda, “Who better to sell it to than the original owner? And what a Christmas present this has been to him and to us.”

“When it arrives I will have to pinch myself again,” Braby said. “I told my wife I won’t believe it until I see it come off the truck. Then I’ll go over and give it a big hug.”

___

Information from: Watertown Daily Times, http://www.wdtimes.com

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