Man’s ride to final resting place in truck he rebuilt

On the side of a dark green 1939 Indiana truck rebuilt by Ulysses “Butch” Black Sr. is the phrase “One of a kind.”

That’s a perfect description of the truck, which is original from the grill and hood to the back of the cab but has a homemade truck bed, fenders from a 1932 Ford, a frame from a 1954 Ford truck, steps traced and handmade from a 1937 International and a motor from a Chevrolet 350 truck.

A painting of three Army “brothers in arms” and the phrase “All gave some — some gave all” by Mark Lawrence on the hood also makes it unique.

The restoration also was done by a man who could be described as one of a kind.

Butch had a longtime interest in restoring old cars, owned a trucking company, started a local motorcycle group, was a member of a local car club and was a helicopter/tank mechanic in the U.S. Army and fought in the Vietnam War.

Exposure to Agent Orange during his service, however, later led to health problems. On Jan. 12, he died at his Seymour home surrounded by family. He was 72.

It was only fitting that Butch’s funeral was one of a kind, too.

His children, Dana Barker and Ulysses “B.J.” Black Jr., arranged for his casket to be placed in the back of his Indiana truck and driven from Voss and Sons Funeral Service to his final resting place at Riverview Cemetery on Seymour’s north side.

The truck, driven by B.J. with Butch’s wife, Mona, in the passenger seat, was followed by Barker on a motorcycle, a 1959 Chevrolet Biscayne that was restored by Butch and other old cars, motorcycles, a semi cab and other vehicles in a lengthy funeral procession.

“We thought it was unique that we got to take him to his final resting place in the back of the truck that I would say, other than his wife, kids and grandkids, he loved that thing more than anything,” Barker said. “Of course, family was everything to Dad. His kids, his wife, his grandkids, we were his life, but then you’ve got that truck that was next.”

At one time, though, Butch told his kids he had other plans for his funeral.

“He always told us, ‘When you bury me, you bury my truck with me,’” Barker said, laughing.

“He said, ‘Just put me in it, push it in the hole and cover us both up,’” B.J. added.

They initially wanted to have a motorcycle hearse, but after that fell through, Barker and her brother thought about using the Indiana. Mark Adams with Voss and Sons said it was OK as long as they figured out a way to strap the casket in the truck bed and show proof of insurance.

“Me and B.J., between the two of us, made all of it happen, and Dad went to his final resting place in the back of his old truck,” Dana said. “We can’t put it in the ground with him, but at least he got to take his last ride in it.”

Butch was born in Columbus and lived in that area until moving to Reddington and graduating from Seymour High School. He served in the Army from 1968 to 1971.

Dana and B.J. grew up watching their father work on cars.

“Dad has been tinkering with cars since he was old enough to drive,” Barker said. “There was never a challenge when it came to restoring old cars. He would always say, ‘I could do this.’ He was just a go-getter.”

Before their mother, Nancy, died in 1983, her everyday car was a 1964 Chevrolet Impala Supersport that Butch restored, and he drove a 1955 Chevrolet truck.

“Dad would be out in the garage from the time he got up to the time he went to bed,” Barker said. “Everybody that drove by, whether they knew Dad or not, would just stop and talk to Dad and see what he was working on next.”

Butch also had an interest in motorcycles, starting the Legion Riders group in 2010, and drove a semi for years, owning a trucking company, B and M Trucking in Freetown.

The Indiana truck was owned by Bell Telephone Co. from 1939 to 1948, B.J. said. Then it was retired to Jarvis’ junkyard in Seymour, which is where Butch first saw it.

“Whenever they closed Jarvis’ junkyard, one of the family members hauled the truck from the junkyard to Vallonia to their home,” B.J. said. “It sat at their house for many years. Dad had seen it there.”

In 2010, Butch purchased it for $500, and it still had the original title from the telephone company. B.J. said Indiana trucks originated in Marion and were used by the military and to build the Hoover Dam.

“I just remember seeing it. It was a big old rust bucket,” Dana said, smiling. “Dad is amazing, he was amazing at fixing up cars, but the way this thing looked, I was like, ‘Are you sure you can do something with that?’ He’s like, ‘Yep, I’ve got this.’ I was like, ‘OK.’”

Butch wanted to make a hot rod out of the truck, and it went through many changes. For the first year, he drove the truck with the original motor exposed and no bed.

He then made a bed and a hood for it and had it painted gray with teal flames on the fenders. One time, he and his brother, Tom, drove it to and from Minnesota to visit an Army buddy.

About five years ago, Butch made other changes to the truck, resulting in what it looks like today.

“When Dad got started on a project, that was his focus,” Barker said. “It would be like, ‘Hey, dad, you want to go fishing?’ ‘I’ve got to work on my car today’ or ‘I’ve got to get this done. I’m wanting to get this done,’ so that was his focus.”

B.J. said his dad took the truck to have it appraised by Tom Gray, but he wasn’t able to do it.

“He told Dad that there’s nothing he could compare it to because there are no other Indiana trucks running around like it, so he cannot do a thorough appraisal on it,” B.J. said.

In recent years, Butch chose to not drive the Indiana very often, so he bought the Biscayne to restore and made that his everyday car along with having a 2004 Dodge truck and a 2008 GMC Envoy to drive.

He finished the Biscayne last summer, and that wound up being the last car he restored, B.J. said.

Since 2002, Butch had dealt with the effects of Agent Orange, including fighting liver disease for the past five years.

“It started with his heart, and then he had deterioration of his back, and so Agent Orange started hitting and affecting different things as it does,” Barker said. “But he was still a go-getter. You couldn’t keep him down.”

For Butch’s two-hour funeral visitation Jan. 14, Barker said there were 10½ pages of names of people who signed in, which Adams said was the most he had had in a long time.

The private family funeral service was conducted the next day, followed by the special funeral procession and burial with full military graveside rites conducted by local veterans organizations.

“We wanted him to just have the biggest last ride, and everybody loved Dad. I was impressed,” Barker said.

“I was very, very happy to see what everybody was willing to do,” B.J. said.

The Biscayne is now in the hands of Barker’s son, while the Indiana is at B.J.’s house.

“He told me he wanted me to have it. He just told me to keep it in the family and just take care of it,” B.J. said of the truck. “It will stay in the family. It will be handed down from generation to generation is where it will be.”

On the Web

The family of Ulysses “Butch” Black Sr. asks memorial checks be written to Wounded Warrior Project at

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