‘If you could just catch a break’: The Auto & Tire Doctor gifts Tahoma man 2007 Jeep

“I couldn’t talk for a minute,” said Thomas Brown on receiving a 2007 Jeep.
Courtesy The Auto & Tire Doctor
Thomas Brown, 66, was awarded a 2007 Jeep Grand Cherokee by The Auto & Tire Doctor.
Courtesy The Auto & Tire Doctor
Thomas Brown, his grandsons, and members of The Auto & Tire Doctor pose with Santa Claus after Brown received a 2007 Jeep.
Courtesy The Auto & Tire Doctor

Thomas Brown has a big heart and a wicked sense of humor.

The 66-year-old spends his days living in Tahoma, caring for his two older sons that are dependent upon him and a pair of grandchildren he and his wife adopted — a process he says is like herding cats, but harder.

A few months ago, however, a series of tragic events left the family devastated and in need of help. In September, Brown was in a car accident.

That would pale in comparison to what would happen during the next two weeks.

After receiving insurance money for the totaled vehicle, Brown said he and his wife, Rhonda, were planning a trip to Sacramento to pick out a new car, but she began feeling ill. She would later be admitted to Tahoe Forest Hospital.

“Two days later, she died,” said Brown, adding that his wife of more than 40 years had chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and caught COVID-19.

As the family searched for answers during the following weeks, friends and neighbors stepped in to help Brown, who also uses a walker as he awaits knee surgery. A longtime friend made sure one of the grand kids, who is a special needs student at Truckee Elementary School, always was picked up for class, while others helped with running errands and anything else the family of five might need.


A pair of Brown’s friends also wrote up nominations for The Auto & Tire Doctor’s annual car giveaway, and when his story hit the judge’s eyes, it was obvious who a 2007 Jeep Grand Cherokee should be awarded to.

“His circumstances were so extreme,” said Jodi DeRuise, The Auto & Tire Doctor manager and organizer of the company’s annual car giveaway. “His story really touched our heart.”

DeRuise said The Auto & Tire Doctor put in roughly $3,000 to fix up and originally had planned on selling it, but owner John (Lamoruex), said “You know, why don’t we use this one for the giveaway car this year?”

On Dec. 22, The Auto & Tire Doctor showed up at Brown’s home with the new Jeep.

“The surprise went off without a hitch,” said DeRuise. “Amidst all the recent hardship his family has been experiencing, he had a charm about him that made our hearts smile. We hope this beautiful 2007 Jeep helps his family get through what could be a very difficult holiday, just a little bit easier.”

Tanya Adams, childhood best friend of Brown’s daughter, was one of those who wrote in a nomination. After more than 30 years of taunting, Brown joked that Adams’ nomination came as a form of payback.

“I couldn’t talk for a minute,” said Brown on receiving the Jeep. “Tanya (Adams) has been best friends with my daughter since they were both 10. Since I’d amuse myself by taunting her, this was her getting even. It took me completely by surprise.”

Though the family is still digging out from the recent storms and a trip to the DMV remains on the to-do list, Brown said receiving the vehicle provided a ray of light in what has been a dark, confusing past two months.

“You know how when you’re in a crisis, and if you could just catch a break, you could start dealing with everything else? That was it,” he said.

The Brown family also has a GoFundMe campaign at

Justin Scacco is a staff writer with the Sierra Sun. He can be reached at


Find the GoFundMe for the Brown family by visiting, and searching: Help for the Brown family

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