School Hill parishioner is known nationally for restoring tractors

SCHOOL HILL — Members of Holy Trinity Parish know Mike Joas as a personable family man who supports his church.

Joas, 43, serves as trustee/treasurer for both the parish pastoral council and finance council.

Mike Joas, a member of Holy Trinity Parish in School Hills, stand nexts to a recently restored Allis-Chalmers tractor. (Benjamin Wideman | For The Compass)

The former member of SS. Peter and Paul Parish in nearby Kiel transitioned to Holy Trinity Parish after marrying his wife, Tanya, there in 2001. The couple and their sons, Ethan and Cody, also enjoy assisting with the parish’s annual perch fry, which served 1,327 plates in February.

“We like being part of Holy Trinity Parish and doing whatever we can to help,” Joas said.

When he isn’t fulfilling parish responsibilities as trustee/treasurer, Joas displays an entirely different skillset as a nationally renowned tractor restoration expert.

Joas owns Joe’s Auto Body Tractor, a tractor restoration business in the nearby Manitowoc County town of Schleswig. The business was founded by his father, Joe, in 1971 as an auto repair shop. After 24 years it moved to restoring tractors. Mike took ownership in 2001.

Joe’s Auto Body Tractor is the country’s oldest second-generation, full-time tractor restoration shop. Tractors brought back to their original glory at the shop can be found in 26 states from coast to coast as well as in Europe.

Joas has “John Deere green” flowing through his veins, but he’s able and willing to handle restoration projects on virtually any make or model tractor, as long as he can get his hands on the required parts.

One such piece of agricultural equipment recently restored by Joas is a 1987 Case IH Magnum 7140 tractor bought last year by Gerald Forsythe, a Chicago-area businessman with deep agricultural roots.

Forsythe’s tractor was the first of its kind off the assembly line in 1987 that ended up getting sold to the public; it first toured the country at farm shows for about two years.

Forsythe, who spent several years trying to acquire the tractor before buying it at an auction, asked Joas to restore it. “I did some checking on him, and he has a good reputation. So I said, ‘Mike, I want that tractor to look like a new one when it comes back to the farm,’” said Forsythe.

The recently completed, four-month restoration proved to be the most extensive of Joas’ career, requiring several hundred hours of painstaking work by Joas, his father and two employees. Joas even used a toothbrush to scrub hard-to-see nooks and crannies.

“When you jump in the cab of this tractor now, it’s just like you’re sitting in a time capsule back to 1987 again,” Joas said of the restored tractor. “It looks just like it came off the assembly line 32 years ago, if not better.”

Joas’ commitment to faithfully serving his parish is mirrored in his dedication to providing quality work for customers, some of whom trust him with decades-old tractors revered as family treasures.

“Every restoration we do in this shop I do like it’s my own,” Joas said. “I want these tractors to last for years.”