Holiday miracle

by John Curran with files from Derek Baldwin

QUINTE WEST, Ont. – There was truly something magical in the air this Christmas when Terry Hadden’s fantasy came true just 22 days before his death.

A retired Montreal municipal parks worker in danger of losing sight in his last remaining eye, the 68-year-old couldn’t believe the size of the present awaiting his arrival at the 10 Acre Truck Stop in Quinte West, Ont.

After building miniature truck models for more than four decades Hadden finally got a chance to ride shotgun with Belleville truck driver Kevin Sloan and realized a lifelong dream of cruising the open highway in a big rig.

With 18 wheels under him and 13 gears unwinding under the seasoned hand of Sloan – a driver for Thomson Terminals of Rexdale, Ont. – Hadden was taken on a round trip from the popular truck stop to Deseronto.

His wife Diana says her husband’s wish was to remember the highway peeling back before him while he could still see to enjoy it.

Hadden was born with a dead eye, which was replaced with a glass eye when he was 18.

In the early 1990s, his only good eye suffered a “bad retina detachment,” and has since been beset with cataracts, she adds.

“No one can imagine how much this short trip meant to Terry.

“He dreamed about this his whole life, especially lately because he couldn’t even build his transport models any longer because his remaining eye was getting worse,” she says.

Hadden didn’t just become a passenger. The fleet gave him a Thomson Terminals Racing Team jacket and an honorary spot on the roster.

The coat was presented to him by Sloan, as well as company safety compliance supervisor Tom Mead.

An overjoyed Hadden beamed to a reporter from the Belleville Intelligencer newspaper on the day of his ride, “I just wish I could be a truck driver. When I was growing up in Montreal, all I ever wanted to do was go to the truck stops and see (the trucks). I don’t know why, really, but I’ve loved big rigs my whole life. But I’ve never been in a truck my whole life.”

Exactly how a man from Montreal ended up in the cab of a truck in Belleville is almost as interesting as Hadden’s love of classic iron.

Belleville resident and driver, Sloan was only happy to oblige Hadden after he heard from 10 Acre cashier Kathy Loft that a man who was losing his sight wanted to fulfill such an unusual dream.

Loft got involved after she took a call from Hadden’s sister, Cynthia Hadden of Vancouver, who explained her brother’s wish. Loft relayed the wish to driver Sloan.

Everything came together so well the only things missing were a brightly colored bow and about a thousand square feet of wrapping paper.

“It’s Christmas and it sounded like a good thing to do,” said Sloan over coffee amid the hustle and bustle of the truck stop’s diner. “What amazes me is how many people have never been near a truck or in a truck. I’m very happy to help Terry see his wish come true.”

Mead says Thomson Terminals often gets similar requests and – for the third year in a row – will hold a truck rodeo in Rexdale where company drivers will take guests on brief excursions through a short planned-out route in May.

“It’s a good way to give a person a thrill, to make them realize what it’s all about. A ride in a truck gives them a different view of things. We just hope we made Terry’s Christmas a little brighter and we appreciate him coming for the ride,” says Mead.

The significance of Hadden’s dream journey, however, wasn’t fully understood until just after New Year’s.

With his earthly dreams fulfilled, suddenly and quite unexpectedly, the wannabe trucker died in early January.

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