Friends, family rally ‘round this fix-it manIf colon cancer was anything like a mechanical engine, Jeff Allen would fix it himself.
By: Debbie Griffin, River Falls Journal
If colon cancer was anything like a mechanical engine, Jeff Allen would fix it himself.
Doctors delivered bad news to the 51-year-old River Falls man in February -- he has stage 3 cancer that’s probably been ‘working on him’ for five years already.
His personal crew of family, friends, car enthusiasts and fix-it associates stretch from west-central Wisconsin through the Twin Cities.
And that group wants everyone to know they’re holding a benefit to help Jeff and Marcie Allen.
It happens 2-6 p.m. Saturday, May 12, at the Coliseum Sports Bar, 1840 Vermillion St., Hastings, Minn.
Guests pay $10 for a spaghetti dinner and live music -- visitors can also browse the silent auction items plus get a chance to win raffle prizes.
Jeff’s wife, Marcie, says she often hears him explaining things to his doctors in car terms because that is something he understands well.
“I’ve been a mechanic my whole life,” he explained, adding that he started learning the automotive business at age 13.
He says his first job in the automotive repair business has ties to River Falls. People may remember Myron Olson, who opened a local repair shop then closed it to try farming.
After Olson went broke doing that, he opened another automotive shop in Oakdale -- where Jeff got his first mechanic’s job.
The Allens moved from St. Paul to River Falls seven years ago, and Jeff has worked for Hove Auto Body for the past four years.
Marcie works at ShopKo now. Before that she worked at UW-River Falls in food service.
The couple has been married for 31 years and have two children -- 29-year-old Nina and 25-year-old Nathan. The family also recently adopted a puppy named Maverick.
“Everybody knows my truck,” Jeff said about his 1947 Ford International, which is custom-painted black with lime-green flames and wheels.
The trademark truck is so well known in town that once when he let his brother drive it around, he took about a dozen phone calls from people concerned that it had been stolen.
Jeff’s active in the Spring Valley-based car club named the Tri-County Cruiserz and is well acquainted with most enthusiasts in the region who like all kinds of vehicles from motorcycles and hot rods to classic cars and tractors.
Jeff served in the Army for eight years -- as a mechanic.
There were several people named Allen, so his buddies started calling him “Alien.”
He agrees it is an interesting coincidence that shortly after he’d moved to River Falls, buddy and fellow car professional Todd Gilbertson of Gilby’s Street Department affectionately dubbed him an ‘alien’ because he’d moved here from Minnesota.
Jeff said, “I was amazed how many people I knew when I moved here.”
Marcie and Jeff came to River Falls not long after his only other major health challenge.
The couple was riding a motorcycle together one day when a young, uninsured motorist hit them hard, crushing Jeff’s leg and leaving them with no means of recouping medical costs.
They sold their St. Paul family home of 20 years when a friend in River Falls needed trustworthy people to live in and care for the former home of the late Gerhadt ‘Doc’ Bohn -- a UW-River Falls professor and the person who founded the Falcon Frontier Days Rodeo.
Jeff came to work for Hove Auto body after a chat at the gas station with local business owner and casual friend, Scott Hove.
Jeff mentioned that he’d been laid off from his job. Hove mentioned that he needed help at the shop.
Hove says Jeff has been a great fit and is an invaluable asset. The owner says Jeff brings a positive energy to the workplace, community and car world.
Hove also says his colleague has a good spirit, a nice laugh and is a “real hard worker for an old guy.”
Jeff likes and values his job at Hove and says he’ll continue working as much as his body will let him.
Marcie and Jeff say he began his first of three rounds of intensive chemo treatment the week of April 9.
A small, portable pump delivers continuous chemo injections 24 hours a day -- Jeff also drives himself to the Veterans Administration hospital at Fort Snelling in Minnesota Monday-Friday to get radiation treatments.
Marcie said she hopes to be doing that driving soon, when she becomes eligible to take unpaid time off under the federal Family Medical Leave Act.
The couple expects the treatments to last about 10 months and involve chemotherapy, radiation and surgery.
Jeff says he’s ready to battle the cancer, and even through his exhaustion he maintains a healthy sense of humor.
He jokes that things can’t get much worse -- after all, he’s already wearing a fanny pack (chemo pump) and driving a sedan.
Jeff and Marcie are admittedly uncomfortable with all the attention.
They didn’t ask for help and have never had to before, but they appreciate the efforts of their family to help, as the poster explains, with the “significant financial commitment for medical care and treatment.”
The Allens say they’re amazed by all the things organizers are putting together for the benefit -- live music by the Flash Hounds, who play hits from the 1960s and 1970s, as well as from Hudson-based musicians and friends Nici Peper and Kyle Koliha.
Thrivent Financial has pledged to support the benefit by matching 25% of the proceeds up to $5,000. His loved ones also set up a Jeff Allen Benefit Fund: Royal Credit Union, P.O. Box 339, River Falls, WI 54022.
Those planning the benefit welcome anyone and everyone to the event. Those with contributions for the auction, raffle prizes or other donations can contact Tim Allen at 612-250-8729 or firstname.lastname@example.org.