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obituary

Gabriella Bonham wins Diane Sweeney's car.

As the old saying goes, there are no pockets in shrouds, and even though Diane Sweeney loved her 2016 Volkswagen Beetle, she couldn’t take it with her to the great beyond, so she chose to have some fun with it after she passed away.

A month before she died suddenly, on July 7, 2022, she told her nephew Rick Ingram that she wanted to give her car away at her funeral and it didn’t matter who came.

"She told a few of us her wish,” Ingram told Fox News. “I remember it clear as day. She said, ‘Whoever comes to my funeral, I want them to have a chance to win my Volkswagen Beetle.’ And I said, ‘Oh, Diane, I'll make that happen.’"


But Sweeney didn’t limit the potential owners of her car to her family. She wanted the opportunity opened up to the entire community.

"We put it in the local paper," Ingram said. "That her wish is that whoever comes to the funeral — and she didn't care if they knew her or not, or their age, race — would have a chance to win her car. Channel 4 picked it up and asked if they could do a news story [about it]. I said, ‘Absolutely. It'll pack the funeral home' — which it did."

The announcement worked, and the funeral home was packed on the day of Sweeney’s celebration of life. There were friends, family and a few dozen complete strangers excited for the opportunity to win the car.

“This is exactly how she would have wanted it. People from all walks of life were here. All ages, faces, races. Some of them came just because they heard about this woman’s story, and they needed a car,” Sweeney’s niece, Suzanne Singleterry, told KFOR.

While the thought of raffling off a used car at a funeral may sound a bit strange to some, for Sweeney, it was in line with her unique character. She worked in biostatistics for an East Coast pharmaceutical company, never married, and had no children. After a successful career, she returned to Oklahoma to live a simple life.

"She could have lived anywhere and driven any vehicle. And what she cared about was her Christian faith, her family and her Volkswagen Beetle. She also loved Sonic and Burger King,” Ingram said.


After the funeral, the family entrusted all of the raffle tickets to family friends and they waited until the estate was settled to draw a name. When the long wait was over, the family chose a name late last month, and it was 16-year-old Gabriella Bonham from El Reno, Oklahoma.

While she was staying in a hotel with her family on vacation, she received a phone call from Sweeney’s family saying, “Congratulations, you were the winner!” Bonham replied, “This is crazy! Thank you guys so much!”

The car was a blessing for Bonham, who was having trouble with hers. “I have a hand-me-down car that has some issues, and we were trying to figure out ways that I could get a new car. So, it was just an answer to prayers,” Bonham told KFOR.

In addition to giving away the car, the family will give a small appreciation gift to 10 names they picked from the raffle box.