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Frazee teen Tyler Shipman loses battle with cancer

Tyler inside his Fiero

FRAZEE -- The Sunday, Feb. 14, entry in Tyler Shipman's Caring Bridge journal was brief, but heartbreaking:

"Tyler lost his very brave and valiant fight with cancer and went home to be with his heavenly Father at approximately 7:45 tonight."

Since then, messages of sympathy have been pouring in from all over the U.S., and some from as far away as the West Indies.

Shipman garnered considerable media attention last November, when a group of Fiero-loving car enthusiasts from across the country gathered to help him restore his 1986 Pontiac Fiero GT to mint condition.

About a month earlier, the 18-year-old Frazee High School senior had been diagnosed with synovial sarcoma, a rare form of soft-tissue cancer. After chemotherapy and radiation proved unsuccessful, Shipman returned home to live out his final months with his family in Frazee.

While he was still in the hospital, having just learned that the cancer was terminal, Shipman posted a simple message on the Pennock's Fiero Forum, asking for help in restoring his car "before I pass."

Like the ripples from a pebble tossed into a pond, Shipman's message reverberated throughout the online community. His plea caught the attention of Andy Wiegle, a Pennsylvania soldier who was serving in Iraq.

Though he couldn't be there in person, Wiegle helped to organize a nationwide effort to make Shipman's dream a reality.

Businesses and individuals from around the nation came together to donate the time and materials necessary.

On Nov. 21-22, in a marathon effort, the group gathered at Frazee Auto Body & Glass to restore "Tyler's Toy," as the inscription read on the overhauled engine installed inside the freshly painted black-and-yellow Fiero.

The grin on Shipman's face as he carefully lowered himself from his walker into the driver's seat of the vehicle spoke volumes about what the day meant to him.

"Thanks, guys," he said quietly as his eyes drank in the sight of his beloved Fiero, looking as shiny and new as the day it first rolled out of the factory more than 20 years ago.

The successful restoration project garnered attention from television news crews in Fargo, St. Cloud and even the Twin Cities.

But unfortunately, the final chapter of this story had a bittersweet ending.

Funeral services for Tyler Shipman will take place at 2 p.m. Friday, Feb. 19, in Frazee High School. A luncheon will follow the burial at St. Paul's Lutheran Church-Evergreen in rural Frazee.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454