Paul Spady said he is excited by the prospect of seeing the beautiful domed building that housed his car dealership for 22 years transformed into a church.
The 77-year-old Hastings man, a longtime leader among the community’s automotive retailers, feels like he is living on borrowed time as the recipient of a double lung transplant and wants to do some good with his new lease on life.
Spady recently signed a purchase agreement to sell the Paul Spady Motors building at 2850 Osborne Drive East to Lifehouse Church, which had been located at the Imperial Mall before the mall closed on May 31.
“It’s a good feeling for me to be able to help the church,” he said. “I think it will be a nice asset for Hastings, as well.”
Spady’s health concerns started when doctors found some kind of growth in his lungs. He said doctors had trouble diagnosing the problem. At first they considered cancer, then tuberculosis. They kept taking samples and trying to grow them to determine the problem. Finally they determined it was some kind of fungus.
“Once they figured out what it was, they could treat me,” he said. “For a while, it was growing faster than they could kill it. Then they got it beat down.”
Doctors were able to kill the fungus, but it ended up causing scarring on Spady’s lungs.
Everything seemed fine for five years, but then Spady started having trouble breathing. Doctors said he had developed pulmonary fibrosis in his lungs from the scarring caused by the fungus.
The prognosis wasn’t good, though. The damage was too extensive, and doctors didn’t think there was anything that could be done.
Spady got a second opinion, which offered a glimmer of hope.
The doctor said Spady needed a lung transplant, but most doctors felt Spady was too old for the procedure to be successful.
Not to be deterred, Spady went through a rigorous series of tests to check his heart, kidneys, liver and more.
“They go over everything you can to make sure you can stand the operation,” he said.
Following those tests, he was placed on two transplant lists. A week and a half later, he received a call about a set of lungs being available, and the surgery was a success.
“I was out of the hospital in four days,” he said. “They never had anyone recover so quickly.”
Unfortunately, his body started rejecting the foreign organs. He had to be placed on a second waiting list for a new set of lungs, though doctors still worried that he was too old for it to be successful.
Spady scoured the United States and other countries before he found a doctor willing to give the second transplant a shot. His health continued to deteriorate as he waited on the second transplant list for more than a year before a match was found.
“They said I was oldest person to get a second transplant in the United States,” he said.
So far, Spady said, his body hasn’t rejected the new lungs for the first year and he is hopeful it will stay that way.
But even without his new spirituality guiding his decision to sell the Paul Spady Motors building to Lifehouse Church for about half of its assessed value, Spady said he sees the transaction as the completion of a deal his father had worked on decades before.
Spady said he had been trying to sell the car dealership, but eventually got the idea that the building could be transformed into a church, remembering a similar project his father had tried in the 1960s.
His father, Fred Spady, had worked with the Rev. Lloyd Jackson on a plan to move Second Presbyterian Church from its location at 400 S. St. Joseph Ave. to a parcel of donated land at the northeast corner of Baltimore Avenue and 16th Street. The land had been donated, but church leaders needed to raise money to construct a building on it.
Lloyd’s son, Alton Jackson of Hastings, said Fred Spady was very involved in the church, and that both Spady and his own father felt the move was in the church’s best interests.
“My dad knew the town was growing north,” Jackson said. “For that church to flourish, it was going to need to move north.”
But the idea caused a rift in the congregation. Half the members supported the move, while the rest wanted to stay on South St. Joseph. One impassioned member convinced half the congregation to vote against leaving.
“He said, “I was born in this church, baptized in this church, confirmed in this church and I want to die in this church,’” Jackson said. “Those guys weren’t thinking of the next generation.”
Paul Spady said the split vote came down to the leader of the church: Alton’s father, Lloyd.
“Rather than divide the church, he voted against it,” Spady said.
The land later was used to build the Hastings Family YMCA in 1969.
The Jackson and Spady families kept in touch over the years. Jackson now is a member of Lifehouse Church, and his stepson, Brett Mackey, is its lead pastor.
Spady said he knew of the problems brewing around the Imperial Mall and approached Mackey about the church’s future. He contacted Mackey about the church moving into his building, and Alton helped work on the deal.
“I’m sure my dad and Alton’s dad would see what’s happening, and I think they’d be amazed with it,” Spady said.
When Jackson first heard about the idea, he said, he could hear the excitement in Spady’s voice.
“He was just excited that maybe he could sell it to us,” Jackson said. “He almost died twice and felt maybe God felt he should do that.”
Jackson thinks the church’s congregation has gotten on board with the idea of moving the church to a former car dealership.
“This is really exciting for our congregation,” he said. “We will have some visibility we haven’t had before.”
Spady said the building is at a great location on the northern part of the city and the building’s 32,000 square feet offer a lot of space for the church.
“I hope they enjoy it, and I feel good about getting the church to end up with it,” he said. “This will be a good step for them to expand, and I’m more than thrilled to help them.”