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After unexpected death, club begins Checker restoration for cab driver’s daughter

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Photos courtesy Internet Checker Taxicab Archive.

Kaela Petkovits grew up in her father’s Checker taxis as he drove the streets of Seattle in the Eighties and dreamed of having her own to drive someday, a dream that seemed to slip away forever when Richard Petkovits died at the wheel of his last Checker late last year. Thanks to a group of Checker enthusiasts, however, that dream will now come true with the restoration of Richard’s first taxi.

As other cab companies phased out their Checkers, particularly after the company stopped building cars in 1982, Richard Petkovits snapped up Checkers to build his own Seattle-based businesses, Classic Cab and Queen City Cab. Eventually, he too faced the reality of pushing aging cars around the city and retired almost all of his fleet. He did keep one A11, however — along with a stash of replacement parts — for himself and used that car as a daily driver.

Then in November, reportedly a day after having the Checker inspected, Richard Petkovits died after his car drifted off the side of the road and hit a tree. As Kaela Petkovits told the Internet Checker Taxicab Archive, her father wasn’t wearing his seatbelt, which contributed to his death, but the exact cause of the crash remains a mystery. “Autopsy showed no evidence of stroke, seizure, or heart attack. My father did have some health issues though. Suicide is unlikely because he left many appliances on back home and had a full calendar.”

Following the crash, Kaela corresponded with ICTA members, and donated her father’s Checker parts stash to the group, and even identified one of her father’s old cabs — his first one, pictured above — when it came up for sale last month. While some of the group’s members suggested buying it to in turn donate it to a Seattle-area museum, Daniel Smith and William Crawford decided instead to buy it, restore it, and gift it to Kaela.

“Give back to the giver and save another Checker,” Joe Fay wrote on the ICTA’s website. “Kaela has posted many times about her dream to buy a Checker and restore, but said the challenges of work, children, and finances would prove difficult for any family today to achieve such a dream.”

With contributions from other group members and support from Checker Motor Cars, the two have bought the Checker, assessed its condition, and shipped it to Smith in Phoenix for the restoration. No timeline has been posted for the car’s completion and return to Seattle.