The ADEC Day Program, located in The Shoots building in Downtown Goshen, serves individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities with a variety of optional and engaging activities: painting, ceramics, cooking, games, computers and more. Ruth Yankey, a long-time and much-loved employee there, was recently inspired to create a larger scale project for their artists to collaborate on, using some unusual components. Hubcaps. Why hubcaps? Read on…

Wayne Bontrager, Ruth’s brother, was tragically taken from his family and friends in February of 2022, and Wayne had made a considerable and indelible impression on the community that he called home. Some time has now passed, but for many the shock and grief continue, and will for some time. Wayne was well-known in Goshen as the trustworthy and kind owner of Meadowlark Cars, located on Middlebury Street – a sort-of landmark for those that drove daily in that part of town. The car on the roof of the building was hard to miss from the overpass!

Wayne Bontrager was 73 when he passed and had been married to his wife Wanda for 19 years. He had two stepdaughters and four granddaughters, several siblings and many nieces and nephews. He was a loving grandpa and uncle and made a point of attending as many of the kid’s sporting events as he could. He was a sports fan and he and Wanda were season ticket holders to the Notre Dame Women’s basketball team. He’d become an avid supporter during the tenure of Muffet McGraw, and often said that they were “a winning team, with a winning attitude.”

He was described by those at the Greater Michiana Auto Auction as “Quiet, reserved, respectful, and down-to-earth. Not at all pretentious.” Wayne said he was in the used car business because he liked meeting people and being able to help them out. He’s been described many times as an honest man, and a dependable person with integrity. That may be why he had so many fans and friends and why so many people in Goshen knew him or knew of him.

Wayne used to say “You’ll find me here anytime, day or night, changing oil, changing tires, fixing brakes… just making the cars I sell better and safer for my customers. That really helps me keep my prices down.” His tendency to give the cars he sold new brakes and tires, among other things, led to sort of an odd collection. He collected a great many of hubcaps over his time at Meadowlark and kept them in a garage. When asked how many hubcaps she thought Wayne had collected, his sister Ruth just smiled and said “Lots.”

Ruth says that she had seen some large, sculptural flowers at craft shows, and that she also found a lot of inspiration on Pinterest for their art project. Using some of Wayne’s hubcaps (that she and her husband had prepped ahead of time,) Ruth and six artists from ADEC’s Goshen Day Program began turning them into beautiful, large flower sculptures. The artists chose the colors and patterns to paint onto the hubcaps, and then finished them off with some help from Ruth, giving each a stem made from a green fence post, and leaves made from repurposed plastic soda bottles. Ruth also made some at home herself, to give to Wayne’s wife, Wanda, and some of their siblings, as a remembrance of Wayne. The flowers created at the Day Program went on to the Art by ADEC Gallery in Bristol and have all been sold. (The artists receive 50% of the sale price, and the other 50% goes towards purchasing more art supplies.)

Wayne had a tradition at Meadowlark. He loved nature, and every spring he would put out three huge pots of pink petunias, and then in the fall, three huge pots of yellow mums. Perhaps without even realizing it, his sister Ruth has combined two of Wayne’s favorite things in an attempt to honor him, his life, and his memory. And there can be no more fitting tribute than that.