Tractor traveler gets warm welcome

C. Ivan Stoltzfus received a warm welcome in Altoona as he continues his trip – Across America for Wounded Warriors.

Stoltzfus’ hopes his trip, which began April 26 in Manasquan, N.J., and will end in Crescent City, Calif., a journey of about 3,000 miles, will enable him to raise $1 million for the Wounded Warrior Project, an organization supporting injured service members. With his three-day stop in Altoona – he arrived Tuesday – he is 329 miles into the journey.

“Ivan is an American hero, to jump into that arena to recognize there is a problem and do something about it,” said Art Halvorson, a 29-year Coast Guard veteran during a brief ceremony Thursday at the Army Reserve Center in Altoona, where Stoltzfus has been staying.

Stoltzfus of Honey Brook, an auctioneer and real estate broker, as well as a retired farmer, is driving a 1948 John Deere Model A two-cylinder tractor hauling a 22-foot camper to serve as both home and headquarters for him during his trip.

State Sen. John H. Eichelberger Jr., R-Blair, was impressed by the tractor.

“I am more impressed with Ivan to sacrifice a year of his time and travel like this with all the bureaucracy involved. It is real project and a tremendous effort on his part to do it. We are lucky we have people left who will stand up and do extraordinary things,” Eichelberger said.

State Rep. John McGinnis, R-Altoona, called Stoltzfus’ trip an act of patriotism and thanked him for his efforts in bringing awareness to the wounded warriors, many who come home physically mutilated and psychologically damaged.

Edward Collins, president of Band of Brothers 1482 of Flinton, which provides sneakers for homeless veterans, was among those attending the ceremony.

“I saw what he was doing and said ‘I have to find that guy.’ This is tremendous. I am so inspired by what he is doing,” Collins said.

Stoltzfus planned to leave Altoona at 7:30 a.m. today and head to Johnstown for lunch and then to the Flight 93 Memorial in Somerset County for an evening ceremony. He hopes to complete his journey in about three months.

Mirror Staff Writer Walt Frank is at 946-7467.