Photos by Mathieu Heurtault.
Harry Pearce had a close relationship with the clinicians and researchers at Fred Hutch who provided his lifesaving treatment for blood cancer nearly 20 years ago. So when Pearce gave back, he chose a gift close to his heart: the antique Wolfe 1907 automobile he'd fallen in love with as a child. At the Gooding & Company auction during the 2017 Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance weekend, the car raised $45,000 in support of Hutch research.
Pearce had cherished that exact car, owned by a good friend of his father's, since he was 6 years old. He fondly remembers his father's friend ferrying Pearce and his brothers around town in the touring auto.
The car is one-of-a-kind: the only fully operational Wolfe in the country. When his father's friend decided, in his 90s, to sell the car, Pearce jumped at the opportunity to own it, despite the fact that it had spent many years in an unheated Midwest barn. It took five years and some faithfully recreated vintage parts to take the elderly Wolfe back to its glory days.
"Because it was very special to me and had these family ties, going back to when I was 6, 7 years old, that made it very special — all the more reason, in my mind, to make a gift of it to the Hutch," which would be able to transmute the car into research support, Pearce said. His reflections on why he was still around to enjoy the Wolfe inspired the gift, he recalled. And the answer was obvious: "The extraordinary men and women at the Hutch who gave me life after a diagnosis that looked very grim."
One of those "extraordinary" men and women who treated Pearce 19 years ago is Fred Hutch's Deputy Director and Executive Vice President Dr. Fred Appelbaum. Pearce intends for the funds raised via auction of the Wolfe to support Appelbaum's research.
Photos by Mathieu Heurtault.
In 1998, when Pearce was a vice chairman at General Motors, a routine company physical turned up acute myeloid leukemia. His best chance of survival was a stem cell transplant. Not yet ready to leave his wife, children and grandchildren, Pearce canvassed different East Coast transplant centers to assess his options. At each stop, he asked the same question: If you were diagnosed with this disease, where would you go?
At Pearce's final stop, the "very impressive" head of the transplant team paused — and then acknowledged that if he were in Pearce's shoes, he'd go to Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle.
"He said, 'That's the Mecca of transplantation, that's where it all began,'" recalled Pearce. So he boarded yet another plane, this time to the Pacific Northwest. At Fred Hutch, he met Appelbaum.
The Hutch's team approach and egalitarian treatment of all patients impressed Pearce. "I still remember a comment from when we first sat down," he said. "[Appelbaum] said, 'Now, I know you're a big shot at GM, but we treat everyone the same out here.' That's great. That's exactly what I would hope to hear."
Luckily for Pearce, his brother was a genetic match and was able to donate blood stem cells for a successful — and cancer-destroying — transplant.
"It was a miracle for me," said Pearce, who still marvels at his good fortune almost two decades later.
In the years since, Pearce has maintained close ties with the community that guided him through his transplant, including Appelbaum and the transplant nurses for whom he sponsors a table at the Hutch Holiday Gala every year. He was also a founding member of the Hutch's President's Circle, to which he continues to contribute annually.
When Pearce donated the Wolfe, another community sprang into action. The Hutch Car Club, an informal group of car mavens and aficionados who support Hutch science, helped shepherd the auto from Michigan to its auction in California. They were led by Richard Adatto, a longtime Hutch supporter and world-renowned expert in pre-World War II French aerodynamic cars who encouraged fellow Hutch Car Club members to donate their time and essential expertise. Thanks to Adatto, and with the donated services of a local car restoration expert, the Wolfe was properly stored, readied for auction and transported without taxing Hutch resources. Adatto's reputation also helped garner entry into the Pebble Beach Auction. With his encouragement, Gooding & Company President and owner David Gooding was glad to waive the seller's fees.
For many, donations of tangible personal property — items like cars or artwork that are not real estate or liquid assets — are a smart philanthropic choice. We encourage anyone wishing to donate items of tangible personal property such as cars to contact the planned giving team at Fred Hutch.
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