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Wheels Donors on a Roll

By Charlotte Balcomb Lane
Of the Journal

Friday, October 18, 2002

Count on Leba Freed-Pierce and the other folks at the WHEELS Museum to come up with a little something different for Saturday’s “Romancing the Wheel” benefit. In addition to a silent auction, dinner and dancing, this fund-raiser offered a live performance by internationally known escape artist Rick Maisel of Albuquerque.

Maisel impressed the audience of about 400 at the Hyatt Regency by dangling upside down from a 20-foot ladder and wriggling free of a straitjacket in less than a minute. Earlier, he managed to pop out of a pair of handcuffs in seconds flat.

Racing great Bobby Unser and his wife, Lisa Unser, were among the guests applauding Maisel’s show. The Unsers won their own applause later in the event when Freed-Pierce announced the couple have agreed to lend the WHEELS Museum their huge personal collection of auto-racing memorabilia, including cars, uniforms and films of historic races.

WHEELS, of course, stands for “we have everything everyone loves spinning,” and seeks to preserve and highlight Albuquerque’s role in transportation history.

Also at the fete was Mayor Martin Chávez, who made an impassioned plea to restore the Santa Fe Railroad Rail Shops in Barelas, where the WHEELS Museum will eventually be built.

Chávez also praised the work of another guest, former Mayor Harry Kinney. Chávez said when he is faced with a tough problem, he thinks “how would Harry do it?”

Organizers estimate the gala raised about $50,000. The museum has grants from city, county, state and federal sources but still needs to raise an extimated $25 million. The museum is building a circle of private donors in Albuquerque, including antiques dealers Bob and Cyndy Gallegos, who presented “Miss Wheels” to the museum. Miss Wheels is an antique carousel horse on a bicycle designed to simulate the running movements of a race horse.

Other guests were board member Julia Seligman; tireless volunteer Bernice Young, who organized the vast silent auction; and accountant Mikel Bornfield, who dressed up — and down — for the occasion in a tuxedo jacket, sport shorts and tennis shoes. At 6 feet 8 inches tall, he created quite a sight.


Railyard Worker Commemorative Plaques. Honor a loved one who worked on the railroad, honor a WHEELS volunteer or honor the WHEELS Museum. WHEELS is now selling plaques with name plates for $100.00 per name.  Keep the memory of these people alive in perpetuity with a gorgeous wooden plaque with brass name plate. Thank those who made our city and state successful, built the railroad, continue to work to preserve our history and create our future. The plaques will be displayed in the Community Room at WHEELS.

Contact Paulette Miller Weir who is graciously supporting the project and has volunteered to orchestrate this work. Her phone number is (505) 227-3270.  Please send checks for $100.00 per name and a few other words such as dates of birth or death or job held to WHEELS Museum, PO Box 95438 Albuquerque, NM 97199 or contact Ms. Miller Weir for any questions.  We can also accept credit cars payment by calling WHEELS-6269.

June 24, 10 - Noon, “LEGO Club Meeting”. See how LEGOS become vehicles, houses, bridges, animals and view amazing Lego displays. Learn how to build with Legos and meet Lego Masters. Space is limited.  Children are welcome, but must be accompanied by an adult. Call Leba at (505) 243-6269  or email to Leba4@aol.com.. Admission is free, donations are encouraged.

July 1, 1-2 pm, "Strings and Sings" Robin Howard in concert. “Strings and Sings” is a solo project of singer/songwriter Robin Howard. Robin covers all popular styles of music including Country, Classic Rock, Folk, Blues, and even original tunes. His music has earned him both praise and support from local musicians in Texas, New Mexico, and Colorado. RSVP:505-243-6269 or email to Leba4@aol.com. Fee: $ 10.00

Do you have a few hours each month to help the Wheels Museum? Volunteers are needed so the Museum can be open more; run the model railroad trains, also help needed with events, marketing, fund raising. Call Leba Freed at (505) 243-6269.