LeRoy Svehla farmed one mile West and 6.25 miles “South” of Clarkson, Nebraska. He purchased a used John Deere 630 at a farm auction in the 1960s and used this tractor mostly to feed cattle. This was the first tractor his youngest daughter, Diane, drove as a child. LeRoy retired from farming in 1994 and moved to Schuyler, Nebraska but the tractor remained in a shed and unused on the family farm until 2006.
Marvin Podany farmed one mile West and 6.25 miles “North” of Clarkson — the same road as LeRoy, except North of town. He purchased a used John Deere 630 at a farm auction in the 1970s and used this tractor to plant his crops in the spring and harvest in the fall, and for many things in between. This was the first tractor his youngest son, Cory, drove as a child. Marvin retired from farming in 2007 and his oldest daughter, Trish, who lives in Seward, Nebraska purchased his 630. She and her husband, James, still have this tractor.
LeRoy’s daughter Diane and Marvin’s son Cory were high school sweethearts. They had their first date on August 4, 1985, and were married 5 years later, to the date, on August 4, 1990. LeRoy passed away in July 2005. His wife, Norma, decided to sell his John Deere 630 tractor in 2006. Prior to doing so, Norma’s son, Dale, asked that Marvin, Cory’s dad, do some research on the history of this tractor. Marvin agreed, obtained the serial number, and then initiated a search through the Two-Cylinder Club to find out the year it was made, what dealership it was shipped to, and other miscellaneous information.
It was at this time that Marvin made an interesting discovery. Out of curiosity, Marvin checked the serial number on his 630 tractor and discovered it was one number from LeRoy’s. Marvin’s serial number is 6311023 and LeRoy’s is 6311024. The two tractors have consecutive serial numbers.
Marvin’s best friend, Dean J Brabec, who lived in Clarkson and restored many antique John Deere tractors, was interested in purchasing LeRoy’s tractor and ended up buying it from Norma in 2006. We’re not sure why, but he stored it in a garage amongst several other restored tractors he owned, but never restored this one.
In May 2020, Cory’s wife Diane was diagnosed with ALS/Lou Gehrig’s Disease, a progressive neurodegenerative disease that attacks motor neurons in the brain and spinal cord which results in muscle loss, loss of movement, and eventual paralysis. In the early fall of 2020, Dean J Brabec passed away. After his passing, his son, Jeremy, knowing the story of the consecutive serial number tractors, asked Marvin’s son, Cory, if he would like to purchase LeRoy’s 630 to keep the two tractors together in the same family. He and Diane agreed and bought the tractor from Dean J’s widow, Karen, in the Spring of 2021. LeRoy’s 630 sat in a shed at Dean J’s farm for 15 years. His son Jeremy put some gas in it, hooked up one battery, and to everyone’s surprise and against all odds it started and ran well enough to put on a trailer.
Now the two tractors are back together again. Cory and Diane’s “new” old tractor was hauled to Marvin’s garage. Diane wanted Cory to get some time away from all his caregiving obligations, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity for Cory and his dad to work together to get this tractor running again. In April 2021, Marvin and Cory began tearing the tractor down. It required a new radiator, water pump, exhaust and intake manifolds, and batteries, among many other things. Cory was able to work on the tractor with his dad a few times a month thanks to some extra special caregivers who took care of Diane while he was gone. He learned a lot from his dad and enjoyed every minute they spent together.
In early 2022, Cory’s dad, Marvin, was diagnosed with Stage IV colon cancer. After surgery and starting chemotherapy treatments, Marvin continued to work to get this tractor running again and did so in April 2022. He and Cory spent many hours working together to make this happen, utilizing Marvin’s knowledge of two-cylinder tractors, along with the help of his friend, Rick Novotny, as well.
How is it that two tractors produced in 1959, bought used at random farm auctions in different decades, end up in the same town, on the same road, equally distant from the town, and in the same family through marriage? We believe these are not mere coincidences. This is more than a tale of two tractors. It’s a story of families coming together. It’s about a father and a daughter, a father and a son, a friendship, and two unexpected and heartbreaking illnesses. LeRoy taught Diane to drive his tractor, and Marvin taught Cory to drive his tractor. It was 20 to 30 years after Cory and Diane would fall in love and get married before discovering the many so-called coincidences. The two tractors are together again. Their families are connected more today than ever before. It’s a story of learning, growing up and growing old, loss, reminding us of what is really important, and showing up for each other when it matters the most.
Cory Podany of Lincoln, Nebraska
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