The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

January 9, 2013

Car winner purring over new wheels

Tom Lavis

JOHNSTOWN — In Freda Labuda’s mind, she never had a doubt about being the grand prize winner in the “Win a New Car” contest sponsored by The Laurel Auto Group and The Tribune-Democrat.

After winning the car Dec. 20, she had until the end of 2012 to make a selection from various models.

There were four 2013 sedans for the winner to choose from: A Ford Focus, a Nissan Sentra, a Toyota Corolla and a Hyundai Elantra.

Initially, Labuda was leaning toward the Focus because her family members have been loyal Ford owners.

But after sitting in each vehicle and getting a feel for each car, the Central City woman decided to take a blue Toyota Corolla.

“The one they had there the night I won was a white one,” she said. “I was going to take the Ford, but after weighing my options, it seemed too low and had a short hood.”

Ironically, the weather turned nasty at the time of the drawing and Labuda had to wait a while before making her selection by the end-of-year deadline.

Labuda’s son, Harry Hillegass of Baltimore, made sure she got to the dealership in time to claim her prize.

“I let it parked at the dealership for a week before finally bringing it home and putting it in the garage,” she said. “It has less than 20 miles on it.”

Prior to winning, Labuda and her husband, Ray, owned two vehicles, one that’s 8 years old and one that’s 16.

“I gave my 1996 Ford Taurus to Harry,” she said. “We are keeping the four-wheel drive truck to get around in the winter.”

Labuda called it fate when she turned the winning key in the white Corolla.

“I told everyone I knew that I was going to win the car after being selected for a qualifying certificate in August,” she said.

Labuda was one of nearly 200 “golden ticket” holders. Of those, 10 were randomly drawn as finalists with a chance to win a car with a turn of the key.

Only one would start the ignition and be declared the winner.

On the night of the finals, contestants holding the first seven keys failed to start a car.

Labuda, 73, slotted her key and got it to turn over.

“I told everyone from my family to my hairdresser that I was going to win it,” Labuda said with a laugh. “Lucky I did because I wouldn’t have been able to show my face in Central City again.”

Labuda said there has been a flood of well-wishers who have congratulated her on her good fortune.

“My priest, Father Joseph Maurizio, even announced at Mass that I had won it,” she said.

“He wanted to know if I would give him a ride, and I said yes – when the weather breaks.”

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