Over the past few days, I’ve been in Texas attending events in conjunction with the groundbreaking of the George W. Bush Presidential Center. As I was leaving Dallas today, I lamented on Twitter that the Dallas-Fort Worth airport is just massive. A few short moments later, something happened that reminded me of just how small this world can be.
As I was preparing to pass through the security line (hoping that I wouldn’t have a “junk” moment), a gentleman behind me in line noted my Iowa State Alumni Association book bag and asked if I went to ISU. Here’s the gist of the conversation:
“I did. Great school,” I said.
“It is. My wife graduated from ISU,” the man responded. “Are you from Iowa?” he asked.
“I am. I grew up in Northwest Iowa. My dad was a farmer.”
He said, “My wife is from Fonda” (a small town in NW Iowa).
I clarified that I was from Sac City, which is only about 20 miles from Fonda. As I was shoving my bag and boots through the scanner, I recalled the old car commercial from when I was a kid and spontaneously blurted out:
“Rhonda from Fonda with a Honda.”
“That’s my wife,” he responded with a surprised look on his face.
Shocked, I said “no way!”
Amused, he colorfully said he wasn’t kidding and explained that he didn’t know her when they filmed the commercial, but she was indeed the famous “Rhonda from Fonda with a Honda.” I told him that I thought my dad knew her or her family. He asked what my name was. I responded and added that my dad was Ned Stanzel. He told me that Rhonda’s dad was involved in the ag business as a cattle buyer and postulated that maybe that’s how they knew each other.
We both managed to avoid the intrusive pat-downs and gathered our belongings. I asked him what year the commercial was made and he said it was from 1984 (when I was 11 years old). He said that Rhonda’s nephews had put the commercial on YouTube, if I wanted to see it. We exchanged business cards and I wished him safe travels.
As I was early for my flight, I sat down to grab something to eat. I opened up my laptop and pulled up the YouTube video of “Rhonda from Fonda with the Honda.” I then remembered why my dad knew Rhonda. It’s because they were relatives. Rhonda hailed from the Fulcher family.
I called my mom to tell her about the encounter. Amused, she retraced the family tree for me.
Carrie Fulcher was my great grandmother. She married George Stanzel. Their son, Fred, was my grandfather. Carrie Fulcher was an aunt to George Fulcher, who was Rhonda from Fonda’s father.
With his business card from our exchange in hand, I sent an email to Rhonda’s husband, Thomas Coon. I clarified the Stanzel – Fulcher connection and told him that we had a parcel of land in the family that was called the “Fulcher Farm.”
Even at a place as large as DFW, you never know when you’ll have a chance encounter that will remind you of how small world really is. Below is the video from the 1984 “Rhonda from Fonda with a Honda” commercial. Also, here’s a little video that was put together highlighting some of the buzz the commercial created.
UPDATE: Thanks to the magic of email, I’ve reconnected with Rhonda and other members of the Fulcher family today. I’ve updated the post for accuracy with one change to the genealogy and to reflect that the “Fulcher Farm” land was sold back to the Fulchers a few years ago. A small, small world.