By Woodrow Polston
Vandalia—America the beautiful. That phrase remains true to this day.
This country is still a great place to live. It’s made up of great people, working together in harmonious, small town communities.
Everyone simultaneously living out his or her own brand of the American dream. Tom Culwell was one of those great people—a genuine unsung hero in the Vandalia area.
Culwell died in August at age 50. He graduated from Van-Far High School with the class of 1989, and worked for the Vandalia Special Road District. He was also a deacon of his church, Spencer Creek Baptist Church. He also enjoyed working with his John Deere 4010 tractor. There was very little mechanically he couldn’t fix.
He spent countless hours volunteering his time with the Vandalia Area Fair.
“Everyone who knew Tom was his friend,” said his brother, Tim Culwell.
Others, who came to pay tribute and participate in the benefit truck and tractor pull for Tom, could not help but get emotional at the mention of his name.
Tom was the kind of man that made a phenomenal impact in the lives of others. He was a blessing to countless people and a central figure right here, in this little piece of America. If you had the opportunity to attend the Tom Culwell Benefit Truck and Tractor Pull “Pullin’ for Tom” event on Friday night, this would have been evident, even if you had never met Tom.
Family members expressed their gratitude for the many people who had helped put this benefit together in only a few short weeks.
It was made possible by the Vandalia area Fair Board and numerous other sponsors and volunteers.
There was quite a line up of trucks and tractors ready to compete, all thanks to the Eastern Missouri Truck Pullers and the Missouri Farm Pullers. Several key people were involved with helping make this possible, including Clete Miller, who placed second in Street Stock Diesel.
At the opening of the evening’s activities, there was a long moment of silence in honor of Tom. Afterwards, Tom’s brother, Tim, thanked everyone for their overwhelming support.
The crowd stayed standing for the National Anthem. After the applause, everyone began to settle in, as the tractors were lining up for the first pull of the evening.
Tom’s tractor was the first to take to the track.
According to Vandalia Area Fair board Treasurer Dustin Maiden, more than 500 people turned out for the event, despite the muddy and wet conditions from all the rain earlier in the day.
Highlights from the tractor pull are: 10 MPH 6500—No. 1 was Ernie Buxton of Mount Sterling, Mo. He was pulling with his AC 180.
18MPH 11,000—No. 1 was Rick Heitman of Elsberry, Mo., in his 1976 International Harvester 1066. His pull distance was 317.4. 8
MPH 6500 No. 1 was Rick James of Paris, Mo., in his 1971 John Deere 4000, with a pull of 288.38 feet.
Highlights of the truck pull results are as follows: Street stock gas—No. 1 was Adam Gremminger with 311.39 feet.
Hot stock small block—No. 1 was Trey Gibson with 344.92 feet. Pro-street gas: No. 1 was Phillip Culwell with 336 feet. Other activities for the evening included a silent auction and the band Riverside was scheduled to play, as well.
The family thought the benefit tractor and truck pull was a real success, and a true testament to what a caring community can do for its own.