Still smiling and passionate about Mercedes-Benz automobiles at the Amelia Island Concours in a 300SL owned by Bob Sirna, a Mercedes Enthusiast. She also posed in the same vehicle at the tender age of two at the same venue years earlier.
When Tom and Debi St. George and their daughter Mercedes set out to visit the Mercedes-Benz Museum during their trip to Germany in November 2005, they hadn’t the slightest idea what an unforgettable event it would become. It all happened because of the name of their six-year old daughter, Mercedes.
Just as a hundred years earlier Emil Jellinek had named his car after his daughter Mercedes, once again an object of beauty was the source of inspiration. Tom had fallen in love with Mercedes automobiles as a young man when his uncle was a Studebaker-Packard dealer in Rochester, Minnesota, which was visited by the Mercedes- Benz caravan in 1958. While at the Amelia Island Concours d’ Elegance in 1999, Tom and Debi decided that Mercedes would be the perfect name for their soon-to-be-born daughter. That name choice entered their minds as they arrived to visit the Mercedes-Benz Museum and factory six years later.
Mercedes-Benz was preparing to dedicate its new museum that very day. The new building wouldn’t open until March 2006 but they were about to have a race and a parade from the old building to the new one. Tom introduced his daughter Mercedes to a young lady at the information desk. She asked,
“What did you say her name is?” “Mercedes” Tom said. The young lady scooted off to find her boss and told her, “We have a little girl from the United States named Mercedes, who is visiting the museum today.” In no time at all, Tom was introduced to the museum director, who asked Mercedes if she would like to take part in the parade. She gladly accepted and a surprising series of events began.
To start with, she took her place in the driver’s seat of William K. Vanderbilt’s 1904 Mercedes racing car and posed for photographs. That was just the beginning. Then she was crowned with the official hat of the grand marshal and was given a yellow flag to hold as the parade was underway. Tom and Mercedes rode from the old museum building through the automobile factory and on to the new building in an early model Mercedes Simplex touring car.
To end the day, the Mercedes-Benz Museum staff treated Tom, Debi and Mercedes to lunch and gave Mercedes a beautiful necklace as a memento of the day, which were all greatly appreciated. But the greatest gift was the timeless memory of a spectacular visit, all because of a little girl and her special name.
Most people think that they know why I was named Mercedes: “You were conceived in a Mercedes, right?” Well, most people aren’t too far off; it does have to do with my parents and a fateful night in a Mercedes-Benz, but my story has more of a PG-13 sort of vibe.
Speeding down a two-lane country road in her 190SL one evening, my mom was on her way to her parents’ house in Penn Valley from her new apartment in Newtown Square. As usual, she was running late. To make matters worse, she was stuck behind some slowpoke in an old 220S Finback. She decided that this was just not working for her and that, at the next intersection, she would remedy the situation. Pulling into the left-hand turn lane, she waited, side by side with the leisurely driver of the 220. Making no eye contact, she waited for the opposing light to turn red and she sped around him, past oncoming traffic, and back into her original lane just as the light turned green for the 220.
However, the glory didn’t last very long, for after about a mile she proceeded to run out of gas and had to pull to the side of the road. The 220 slowed down as it passed, the man inside giving the car, and my mom, a once-over. Several yards down the road he made a U-turn, returning to where my mom’s car was stopped. Leaning out of the window, he yelled across the street, “Well, is your generator light on?” Needless to say, this would not be the last time that my mom has heard my dad utter these words. Too embarrassed to admit the truth, she bent it and said, “Yes”, figuring hey, this sounds good, and I mean, when you turn the key the light does go on…and maybe this guy will give me a ride to the gas station.
So my dad got his tools out, walked across the street, and popped the hood of my mom’s car. As he inspected the car, he decided it would be an appropriate time to share with her all of the problems he was noticing along the way.
“Well, the motor mount’s pretty much disintegrated and the battery well is rusted through. No booster brake unit…and here! No self-respecting Mercedes owner has an electric fuel pump.” Despite all of these flaws, he couldn’t find anything really wrong that would have caused her to “break down,” so he got in the driver’s seat and looked around. My mom stepped back and waited for the inevitable. It was then that he noticed the gas was on empty. With a grin, he looked up at my Mom and said, “I bet you don’t know about the emergency gas tank lever!” To her chagrin, he reached over and the lever was already pulled out. She admitted that she did indeed know about it, and had pulled that very lever two days before.
So my dad drove my mom to the gas station. Naturally, my Mom didn’t have any cash and was not carrying around a credit card, so my dad had to rent a gas can and buy the gas. When they got back to the car, the engine was so dry, he had to take off the air filter and pour some of the gas directly into the carburetor. Once he started the car, they began talking and he asked her if she wanted to go to dinner in a really good 190SL? Not wanting to appear too eager, my mom said she was pretty busy for the next two weeks. However, she then gave him about five different phone numbers at which she could be reached at that point.
They finally got together and on their very first date, my dad said, “You know, wouldn’t it be funny if this really worked out with us and we got married… we could name our daughter Mercedes because I would never have stopped for you if you hadn’t been driving that old 190.” That was a bit much for my mom on a first date, but she thought that he was pretty cute and just quirky to leave her wanting more. Two years later, Bob and June were married. Thirteen years after that, they had a baby girl… and my Dad remembered what he said on that first date.
Hi, my name is Mercedes Andie Puente and I was born in Fort Myers, FL in the spring of 2016. I am less than a year old but my story starts approximately forty years ago and spans many thousands of miles as a direct result of major political, social and financial events that have helped shape the world I live in.
See, my mom is from Southeast Asia; she was a little girl living in the countryside of South Vietnam when her parents were forced to gather up their four kids and the clothes they had on their backs and fled their country knowing they could face certain death. It took them almost three years to get to America and most of that time was spent at sea or in various refugee camps.
At the same time mommy and her family endured their epic journey in search of freedom, a young boy, who would later become my dad, was being raised in his native Ecuador some fifteen thousand miles away, across the globe. The son of a prosperous bridge contractor, he would fall in love with Mercedes-Benz automobiles at eight years of age just like his father did, and his father's father before him. My dad grew up learning how to drive, care for and respect Mercedes-Benz W123's and W201's; and even though the Three Pointed Star ran in his blood (his mom worked for Mercedes-Benz before he was born), he became a Civil Engineer to follow his dad's steps and take over the family business.
Everything went according to plan until 1998, when corrupted bankers and politicians caused the collapse of the Ecuadorian economy. Grandpa's business was crippled as the Ecuadorian government, his main customer, ran out of money to pay for work completed. Millions of Ecuadorians lost their life's savings during the worst recession in Ecuadorian history, which in turn created the largest migration wave, with millions of people leaving the Country as a matter of survival. Most escaped to Italy and Spain; dad is one of many fortunate ones who made it to the USA.
With his Engineering degree under his belt, he started working as a construction laborer but a few years later he found himself thriving on some of the largest highway projects in Florida. Soon after, he and mom met, and it was love at first sight (or so he claims!)
Soon after they started dating, dad felt he needed to get back to what he loved, and so he bought a dilapidated 1980-something 560SL. He would work on the car's abundant mechanical and cosmetic needs in his garage at night, so he could take mom out the next day.
Once he got started, however, he never stopped because soon after, a 190E 2.3-16V Cosworth appeared out of thin air, then a Euro 500SEC, and a second "Cossie" ... and a third one...Just before another 560SL and C63 AMG and the SLK...and the ML63 AMG...in case you didn't catch my drift, my dad has a "condition", according to mom. And she must be right because dad eventually took a break from managing heavy highway construction projects, opened his own shop and started managing Mercedes-Benz restoration projects.
It was in the midst of all this when one-day mom and dad found out that I was on the way. The joy for both families was HUGE! I was about to become the first grandchild on both sides and even more so, the first member of both families to be born in the Greatest Nation on Earth.
Everyone was in celebration mode until they received the bad news. My grandma in Ecuador was diagnosed with advanced stage cancer. The news dropped like a bomb within my Ecuadorian family.
Doctors were not optimistic after months of chemotherapy as Grandma's health was quickly worsening, but they suggested one alternative procedure. This would be a last-ditch effort to save Grandma's life and it involved a massive 12-hour surgery which had a very high rate of failure. If successful, recovery would take up to a year.
I had been incubating for five months in Mommy's belly by the time grandma was getting ready for the most brutal battle of all, with all odds against her and everyone braced and prayed.
It was on the hospital bed, as she was getting prepared for the surgery that Grandma felt a warm hug envelope her and reassuring her that everything was going to be OK. Grandma looked up and she saw her own mother, who had passed away years ago.
Grandma and grandpa with Mercedes Puente.
Grandma woke up from surgery the next day and to everyone's amazement she started talking almost immediately! With tubes coming from everywhere, she saw my dad standing by her bed and told him about her encounter.
Moments later dad called mommy and told her about the miracle and right then, they decided to name me after my great grandmother. Her name was Mercedes.
My grandma is now cancer free. She and grandpa moved to Florida and live just down the street from us. I love to play and learn Spanish from my Ecuadorian grandparents and also enjoy giggling and learning Vietnamese with my other grandparents.
See, my short story is part of the history of the Country I was born. A history of immigrants searching for the Land of the Free, a place where each individual is born with the same rights and opportunities. These individuals can later pursue their dreams and it is only up to them to make sure their dreams become a reality... but you must want it bad enough and work for them.
My name is Mercedes and I am part of that American Dream.