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Stay-At-Home Dad: Family minivan goes down a dead-end road

The Ludwig family minivan has died age 13 stay-at-home dad Howard A. Ludwig reports.  |  Supplied photo

The Ludwig family minivan has died at the age of 13, stay-at-home dad Howard A. Ludwig reports. | Supplied photo

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Updated: May 10, 2013 11:58AM



The primary vehicle of the Ludwig family — a 2000 Chrysler Grand Voyager — died last week at age 13.

The blue-green minivan is survived by owners Howard Ludwig, The Wife and their two children, Bubba and Peter.

The Grand Voyager died after colliding with a Subaru at the intersection of 111th Street and Harlem Avenue in Worth. The Subaru abruptly stopped for an ambulance. The Grand Voyager wasn’t so lucky.

Howard Ludwig, the minivan’s sole passenger, was unharmed in the accident, as were the driver and passenger of the Subaru.

The minivan was rushed to a body shop. With the minivan insured only with minimum liability coverage, the repairs were deemed too expensive. Thus, the decision was made to end the life of the beloved family vehicle.

The Grand Voyager was born in Chrysler’s assembly plant in Windsor, Ontario, Canada. Little is known about the vehicle’s early life. Records show it was registered in Tinley Park. The original owner drove and maintained the minivan until 2008.

The vehicle affectionately known as the “blue-green beauty queen” then came into possession of the Ludwig family. The minivan was largely used for local travel, though it did make road trips to Tennessee, Michigan and Indiana.

The Grand Voyager was a baseline model. However, the Ludwigs treated their daily driver like the finest car in the lot. The stereo was upgraded in 2010, cosmetic repairs kept the beauty queen rust-free and frequent washes made the van sparkle.

Internally, the vehicle was showing signs of age. The exhaust smelled of unspent fuel and burnt oil. The rear brakes squeaked, and acceleration had gone from peppy to paltry.

Nevertheless, the minivan was loved. Howard Ludwig, the vehicle’s foremost driver, long suspected he’d be the final owner of the minivan. And yet the end arrived abruptly. He spent the weekend in an emotional and financial tizzy.

“I always planned to drive this vehicle until the wheels fell off. But when that day arrived, I wasn’t prepared to let go,” he said.

Choking back tears, Ludwig remembered strapping his infant son’s car seat into the minivan for the first time. He also fondly recalled removing the rear seats and hauling a couch. Then there was the time he slept in the van for three hours waiting for a group of friends who never showed.

The youngest members of the Ludwig family became surprisingly sentimental upon hearing news of the loss.

“Awhhh, I love that car. It was my favorite,” 5-year-old Peter Ludwig said.

Even in the end, the Grand Voyager thought only of others. The van was part of an organ and tissue donation program. All working parts will be used to keep other minivans running. The minivan was a modern version of Shel Silverstein’s “The Giving Tree.”

The 2000 Chrysler Grand Voyager will be laid to rest this week. It had 122,000 miles on a 3.0-liter Mitsubishi engine, half a tank of gas and a pan full of synthetic oil at the time of its passing.

Funeral arrangements are pending.

Howard A. Ludwig is a former SouthtownStar business writer who traded his reporter’s notepad for a diaper bag, becoming a stay-at-home dad.

He can be reached at howardaludwig@yahoo.com.



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