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Labor of Love

75-year-tradition lives on through Ol’ Jimmy and the people who care for it

Every old truck has a story to tell, and the mavroon-colored GMC that drives around town from one CMU event to the next is no different. Its longevity and how it came to be a beloved part of CMU history is thanks to a labor of love.

In 1947, after returning from service in the United States Air Force, Mesa alumnus and then campus administrator, Al Goffredi, swapped the facility’s vehicle from a jeep to his 1942 GMC pickup. The truck was used for years to take mail from one on-campus building to another, carry jugs of water to the athletic sports teams, lead parade floats and haul materials around town. As most things do, age and wear-and-tear started taking a toll on the truck. Had it not been for a man by the name of Walter “Wally” Fritzlan, the truck would’ve stayed in retirement and faded into history.

Fortunately, in 1968 after serving in the U.S. Navy, Fritzlan became employed at what was then Mesa State, and took the truck under his wing.

Frizlan, a skilled diesel mechanic, took meticulous care of the truck and even coined its nickname, Ol’ Jimmy, short for the Old General (General Motors). Frizlan cared for the truck for the next 30 years. 

In the late 1990’s, as Fritzlan’s career at Mesa State was coming to an end, as well as his care for Ol’ Jimmy, the truck fell into a state of disrepair. By 2013, Ol’ Jimmy had seen better days.

Given the history of the truck and that the engine was still in fairly good working condition, the CMU Alumni Association, with the financial support of US Bank, Fuoco Motors and Shear, Inc., began a three-year process of bringing Ol’ Jimmy back to life. In July 2016, the pickup was reintroduced at the Alumni Association’s annual meeting with an immaculate new exterior and running in top shape. 

For the next four years, Ol’ Jimmy was under the care of the Alumni Association and its director, Jared Meier. The truck made regular appearances in the Homecoming parade and a other annual campus events, but it wasn’t being showcased to its full potential. In 2020, Meier met Pat and Terri O’Brien, both recently retired and self-proclaimed hobbyists that enjoyed staying busy. Their love for old cars made them the perfect pair to care for Ol’ Jimmy.

When Pat first saw the truck he assembled a team, also known as the Pit Crew, to keep Ol’ Jimmy running and well. And that is exactly what he did. He pulled together a talented team. Team members who knew how to double-clutch Ol’ Jimmy to shift the unsynchronized transmission, offer consultation on how to improve the fuel pump, brakes and more, and also who knew how to turn the wrenches to fix everything .

When Ol’ Jimmy was brought back to working shape, the Alumni Association knew this project would be a wonderful tribute to the early pioneers of this institution and connect the many generations who interacted with the truck throughout the decades. Last year alone, the truck appeared in nearly 20 events locally and throughout the region. Pat and the Pit Crew have been instrumental in not only ensuring that it is safe to drive, but have also added nice aesthetical features like paint touch ups, new upholstery and a machined steering wheel cap that can be customized for any event. 

Recently, Ol’ Jimmy paid tribute to one of the laborers of love. In early 2022, Fritzlan passed away and Ol’ Jimmy served as a centerpiece at his memorial service, reminding many in attendance just how special an old truck can be.

It’s traditions like Ol’ Jimmy that bring people together. For 75 years, a truck has connected men and women from all generations, and will do so for years to come, thanks to people like Goffredi, Fritzlan, Meier, Pat and Terri O’Brien, and the Pit Crew. Next time you see Ol’ Jimmy, remember it was a labor of love that got it there.


Written by Aaron Reed, Student Trustee