Her white 1971 Cadillac is covered with 2,544 names written in red, white and blue paint. For Patricia Ann Flemming, known by friends and family as “Cadillac Sue,” it’s how she honors those killed in the Iraq war. “That’s the least I can do,” said the Mesa 64-year-old. “These men and women died for us.”
Every couple days, she spends 2 1 /2 hours rewriting the names faded by the sun, checking the names off from a list she keeps in her back seat.
“My children, my grandchildren and me love all these men and women who died for us,” said Flemming, who has 14 children, 44 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. “People ask me if this is my family, and I tell them ‘yes.’ “
A white paint pen is used for the names on the black roof, and the rest of the car, including the side windows, has red and blue names.
Each name includes military rank and age. The youngest is 17, and the oldest is 59, she said.
“I don’t want people to forget about them,” the retired certified nurse’s aide said. “I love our service people.”
She began writing the names on her Cadillac DeVille soon after the war began, obtaining her first list of 24 people killed in the war from two men she met in Idaho who served in the military. She moved to the Valley from Idaho five weeks ago.
She wondered how she could display the names for others to read and remember. She picked up a marker and decided to start writing the names on her dream car.
Her husband, Robert, does research on the Internet to find new names of men and women who have died.
“We need to love and trust in these men and women, because they’re dying for us,” she said.
Among the names are various patriotic and religious sayings, such as “Jesus loves all of them. They are in heaven with him now.” On the top of the
windshield she wrote, “Honk if you are a proud American.”
When the war is over, she hopes to paint her car with clear coat to preserve the names.
She also frequently wears red, white and blue clothing, and Wednesday wore a shirt with the words, “Jesus and our troops love us — That is why they died for us” written on the back.
“I hope people realize these men and women are over there to protect them and their families,” she said. “This car is a memorial to them.”
Neighbor Elmer “Gene” Ray said Cadillac Sue’s car is “awesome.”
“I know the guys would appreciate it,” said Ray, 78, a former Marine who served in the Korean War. “That little gal has gone above and beyond duty. I’m surprised that anyone would do that to their own vehicle. It’s amazing.”