A dream come true: 97-year-old drives semi for first time

By Tyson Fisher, Land Line staff writer | Friday, August 15, 2014

It is never too late and one is never too old to do something one has always wanted to. Vera Abruzzi, 97 years young, of North Brunswick, N.J., is living proof as she fulfilled a lifelong dream last week of driving a big rig.

Since she was 15-years-old, Abruzzi has always wanted to drive a truck. She would ride along with her brother in his truck, dreaming of a day when she could sit in the seat to her left.

“I love driving. That was my ambition in life, to drive a tractor-trailer,” Abruzzi told Land Line. “I used to see them go by the highway. I said, ‘Oh my god, I wish I was behind that wheel.’”

With family life – including children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren – Abruzzi never found the time to get behind the wheel. According to her, time flew by fast. Despite three heart attacks, Abruzzi was still determined to operate several tons of heavy-duty machinery.

Eighty years later, on Wednesday, Aug. 13, her dream has become a reality.

Winsor’s Tractor Trailer Driving School, located in Linden, N.J., facilitated Abruzzi’s experience driving a truck for the first time just a few years shy of becoming a centenarian.

To start the day, her trainer, John Marques, showed Abruzzi where the stick shift was and instructed her about shifting gears. From there, it was all about double-clutching and braking. After the tutorial on the basics, it was time for Vera to turn the key and hit the gas.

With three acres of yard to work with, Marques and Abruzzi spent the first 15 minutes maneuvering the truck with only the tractor. Once she got the hang of it, a 45-foot trailer was hooked up.  Left turns, right turns, figure eights and tight corners, Abruzzi did it all. Working the gears, she got up to third.

So how did she do?

“I’ve trained over 10,000 students in our school here. Normally, the average adult that comes through the school the first day, they get very nervous, they perspire, they get upset with themselves,” Marques told Land Line. “She did fantastic. She was calm, collect.”

“It was no strange thing to me, because my desire was so strong that I always imagined that I would drive a truck,” Abruzzi said.

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