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Lucky Stock Car Racer / Nick Ehrhardt

Lucky Stock Car Racer

Avis Mathews (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)The obituary for Avis Mathews, written by Amy Rabideau Silvers for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel begins:

“First as a stock car driver at the Hales Corners Speedway – and then as a rare woman truck driver in Milwaukee – the woman called ‘Lucky’ always figured that she really was just that.”

The obituary refers to a newspaper series from 1955 about women drivers and their vehicles Lucky Samuels’ (as she was then known) “unusual choice of work.”

“By then, she had been working as a truck driver for four years at Anderson’s gravel pit in Hales Corners,” Silvers wrote. “‘Pretty Lady Driver finds Job as Gravel Trucker,’ read the headline.”

The former North Dakota farm girl began driving trucks before she was 16, apparently while living on a Nevada ranch.

As a young woman, she took a factory job in Milwaukee, “But I just itched to get outside and do some driving,” she said in a newspaper interview.

Soon after a friend took her to a stock car race, “she was wearing a helmet and racing at area events. A 1952 newspaper clipping, for example, called her a favorite in the state championship women’s stock car races at the Hales Corners Speedway.”

Silvers wrote: “The story went on to say that ‘although she looks and acts as sweet as a schoolgirl, the slim young woman handles her truck like a burly veteran.’”

“Just because I drive a truck doesn’t mean I have to look like a truck driver,” she said.

“They call her ‘Lucky,’” the story said. “That’s the name scrawled in silver across the red nose of her truck; and that’s what she considers herself.”

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This post was contributed by Alana Baranick, a freelance obituary writer. She is director of the Society of Professional Obituary Writers and chief author of Life on the Death Beat: A Handbook for Obituary Writers.