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'A real shock': Loved ones surprise Billings veteran with dream car

Posted at 4:54 PM, Apr 22, 2024

BILLINGS — One Billings veteran received the surprise of a lifetime after family and friends gifted him with a 1957 Chevy Bel Air, the same kind of car that he had in high school.

"Whoa, baby!" exclaimed Carl Korell after he first heard the engine of his new car roar to life.

The Vietnam War veteran thought he was just going fishing with his best buddies Monday.

"This was a total surprise," Korell said.

 His family and friends, however, had plans to cruise down memory lane.

Carl Korell's new 1957 Chevy Bel Air

“It brings back a lot of memories because this was my high school car until I went into the Army,” added Korell.

Korell's father Harold had bought him a turquoise and white 1957, two-door Chevy Bel Air decades ago.

“When I went into the Army, my dad said, what are you going to do with your '57 Chevy? And I said, well you bought it for me for graduation, so I’m giving it to you 'cuz I won’t be needing it for a while,” Korell said.

The car was sold shortly after he enlisted, but not before he made some great memories.

Carl Korell

“Carl and I, we used to burn the point together. And when he was in Vietnam and I was overseas in Europe, we would write letters and always talk about burning the point again,” said Carl's younger brother, Don Korell, also an Army vet.

Don Korell still has his original Ford from high school, and it's been restored to its former glory.

Don and eldest brother Harold wanted the same for Carl.

“My oldest brother, who is the director of joy and happiness, he looked for this car, a car for him. And he found this car, it was in California, shipped to New Jersey. And he bought it for Carl,” Don Korell said.

It wasn't just a reunion for Korell and his old car.

Longtime friend of the Korells, Ted Freestone

Ted Freestone and Chuck Hayter have known the Korells for decades.

“I got a call from Donny, and Donny said yeah, reunion of sorts. I remember (we) used to ride around burning the point with him downtown, back in the late '60s,” said Freestone.

“He’s gone through, again, so many hardships, on and off and stuff. It’s just good to see something that could put a smile on his face,” Hayter said.

Longtime friend of the Korells, Chuck Hayter

Korell will have a piece of his late father with him as he burns the point once again. He had opened the trunk to find a placard of a yellow and white truck.

“My father Harold, who my big brother is named after, he drove for Burlington Northern truck and he retired, and this is his retirement present. He’s no longer with us, but he’ll ride with this in the car,” said Don Korell.

Carl's older brother Don holds up their late father's truck placard.

“I will never forget this day. This is a real shock, I never thought anything like this today, at all. This will be in my memory, forever,” Korell said.

Don Korell said the surprise wouldn't have been possible without the help of the Fort Harrison Veteran Affairs Medical Center in Helena as well as the Benjamin Charles Steele Veteran Affairs Clinic here in Billings.