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Lower Burrell car cruise honors the late ‘Grumpy’ Michael Zanotti

August 2, 2018
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Christine Zanotti and her late husband, Michael Zanotti with his classic 1969 GMC truck known as “Grump.”

It’s not surprising that Michael Zanotti, of Upper Burrell, who tragically died July 14 after a forklift accident helping out on a family farm, was well-loved for his spirit and generosity.

But apparently, he was loved for more: His family held a car cruise in Zanotti’s honor Sunday on his 52nd birthday on the grounds of Burrell High School in Lower Burrell.

The car cruise drew 200-plus classic and customized vehicles and upward of 400 people on an inviting, sunny day.

Zanotti’s friends sat under shade trees with a cooler while others milled around to take a look under the hood while listening to Willie Nelson’s “Always on my Mind” and Bob Seger’s “Night Moves.”

Some spun tire.

A classic Mercury Cougar revved its engine in a staccato roar as it drove away, paying homage to Zanotti.

The family was stunned to see such a good turnout.

Although, a few thousand did turn up for visitation at Rusiewicz Funeral Home in Lower Burrell for Zanotti a few weeks ago.

“I knew all of these people through my husband,” said his wife, Christine Zanotti.

“I am blessed,” she said. “He touched this many lives.”

Known as “Grumpy,” Zanotti and his children nurtured lifelong obsessions with classic cars and trucks.

Family donned T-shirts Sunday advertising “Grumpy’s Rod Shop: Rods built with attitude.”

Grumpy’s isn’t really a business. It was just Zanotti’s moniker for his hobby collecting and restoring cars for himself and his children.

Zanotti’s truck, a 1969 GMC truck also known as “Grumpy,” was a gathering place for family and friends Sunday.

The GMC’s patina was distinctive: black, midnight blue, bare metal and rust, all loving preserved under a shiny topcoat.

“This is the one you can’t sell,” Katelyn Zanotti, 20, of Upper Burrell, once told her father.

Zanotti frequently bought and sold cars, but the family kept stopping him from selling the GMC truck.

“It’s a great thing to have now to remember him by,” she said.

She has something else, too: She bought her father’s dream car -- a baby powder blue 1965 Ford Mustang. They had plans to work on it together.

Just like her father, Katelyn Zanotti is working on a way to finish the restoration.

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