Edward Ess shakes hands with Father Chris Forler, administrator for St. Bernard Church, Rockport, and St. Martin Church, Chrisney. Ess won the 1966 Corvette pictured here in the 2012 St. Bernard Church Classic Corvette Raffle. (Message photo by Rick Jillson).
By RICK JILLSON (Message editor)
“Do I get to take it down the street?” asked Edward Ess from the driver’s seat of the “Nassau blue” 1966 Corvette convertible that he had just traveled more than 10 hours and 680 miles to claim. And who could blame him for struggling to believe that the painstakingly restored sports car — first prize in the 24th annual St. Bernard Church, Rockport, Classic Corvette raffle — was actually his to take back home to Batavia, NY (near Rochester).
A long-time Corvette enthusiast, Ess invested $100 in the raffle (the cost of four tickets) and walked away with a classic car valued at $80,000. There were 10,000 tickets sold in the raffle, which is well-known to Corvette lovers throughout the nation and beyond.
“We get interest from around the world, and we tend to sell a lot of tickets from coast to coast,” said Dave Lovell, a St. Bernard’s parishioner who serves as advertising chair and coordinator for the raffle. Lovell said the church has relied heavily over the years on placing ads in classic car magazines, but that many of those magazines are “going away.” As a result, they primarily used the Internet to spread the word this year.
Ironically the Corvette that was raffled off to Ess was manufactured in Oswego, N.Y., just 100 miles from the home of Ess and his wife, Lynda.
“You could almost say that the car is returning home,” noted Lovell.
Ess said he was still in shock moments after being handed the keys by Father Chris Forler, administrator for St. Bernard Church.
“I don’t know what to say,” said Ess. “This is a beautiful Corvette, a very nice restoration. I’m going to enjoy this for many years.”
While Ess can’t remember the year he bought his first Corvette, the retired corrections officer from Attica Correctional Facility in upstate New York does recall that it was a sunfire yellow 1967 coupe.
“I had to borrow the money from my mother on my first one,” he said with a laugh. “And then it took off from there. I just started buying ’em and selling ’em and restoring ’em.
“It wasn’t my livelihood, but it was my hobby.”
For years, Ess had a house with two garages that could hold a total of five vehicles. He said he was constantly working on multiple cars (this latest one marks his 43rd Corvette).
Less than two months ago, however, Edward and Lynda moved into a smaller home with a two-and-a-half-car garage. “I had to sell all of my toys — my cars — when we downsized,” he said. “So now I’m no longer ’vetteless, which is a good thing.”
Ess said he has been buying tickets in car raffles for years, but this is the first time he has come up a winner. “It might be the first time I’ve won anything,” he mused.
Ess also said this Corvette, which is a Big Block 427-425 horsepower, 4-speed, rivals any of the other models he has owned.
“I’ve probably had only three or four in the same category,” he said. “It’s a very nice car.”
The annual St. Bernard Corvette raffle benefits the parish and school. People from as far away as Australia, Italy, Germany, New Zealand, Canada and all across the United States have purchased tickets.