We close our eyes and another year goes by….
On the last day of every year we take time to remember some of the friends and fellow motorcycling enthusiasts we’ve lost along the way. With a nod to the New York Times’ annual requiem about the lives others lived, we offer our thoughts and condolences to all of those who lost someone special in 2019.
They used to call Paul Denis "Hollywood" when he was rising through the minicycle ranks in the early 1980s, a can't-miss-kid who was a factory rider before he even had a driver's license. He was featured on magazine covers and in national advertisements and was ready to take his place among minicycle prodigies like Jeff Ward, Ron Lechien, Scott Burnworth, and other kids who turned into full-blown stars. But somehow the Southern Californian didn't actually make it to the top. Instead, he became something of a cautionary tale for too much, too soon. Despite being one of Kawasaki Team Green's top graduates, Paul Denis never made it to the starting line of a pro national or supercross main event.
In March of this year, his friend and former rival Johner Kight reported that Denis had suffered a heart attack and did not survive. His old competitors and sponsors posted their thoughts and memories of Paul. Wrote Mike Healey: "I have such cool memories of Paul and I banging bars at Saddleback or OCIR. Say hello to everyone up there for me brother, you're going to be missed greatly..." Added Harry Klemm: "I was fortunate enough to work on Paul's KX80s during his very successful mini expert days. He was a very soft spoken kid (for an MX racer), and both he and his dad Jack were very easy to hang out with. Gone far too soon."
The last thing Walker Brightwell posted on Facebook was a shot from the seat of his bulldozer and this offer: “Anyone in need of some track work this spring get ahold of me.” Brightwell, once a top minicycle prospect for Suzuki's RM Army and a two-time AMA Amateur National Champion from Loretta Lynn's, had transitioned into being a track builder, event promoter, and track owner. Windy Ridge Motocross in Ohio was a rider's track, according to those who went there to race and train, and Brightwell could often be found out there sculpting jumps, teaching riding lessons, and riding himself, though he had put his own racing aspirations on hold for a few years while he attended business school. On April 5, Brightwell had been operating a bulldozer when he got off and started to walk away. He then apparently realized it was still moving, so Walker tried to get back into the cab to stop it but lost his footing and was caught in its path. He was helicoptered to the hospital but died as a result of his injuries. He was 25 years old.
Brightwell's friend and fellow Ohio rider Scott Plessinger, Yamaha factory rider Aaron Plessinger's father, took part in a ride to the track in Walker's honor. He wrote, "Today was tough but when everyone comes together like they did today it makes things easier to take! Thanks to Ned Brightwell, Walker's father and best friend @justinweeks381 for leading the procession around the track here today. We are a tight group in this MX world and have so much love for one another when tragedy strikes! Continued prayers to all the family and friends."
In the mid-seventies, Jeff Provance was a 12th-grader in Brownsville, Pennsylvania, racing for his high-school motocross team. High-school MX was much more popular in Southern California at the time, but Provance and some of his fellow racing students like Jimmy Knisley, EuGene Christopher, and Alan and Howard Carroll convinced Brownsville High School to field a team. The school ended up finishing second in the 1975 Tri-State Challenge, with Provance leading the way. Three years later, Provance would qualify for his first AMA 125 National, scoring a single point at the 1978 Metrolina Speedway National outside Charlotte. More pro motocross races should have been in the offing, but the real world beckoned, and Provance went to work as a pipe fitter and welder as a proud member of Local Union 354. But he never lost his love for racing motocross, and he was a regular threat in every age group he entered, first in Junior +25, then Vet +30, Senior +40 and so on. Incredibly, Provance even qualified for a 500 National at Steel City Raceway in the early nineties, when he was well past his 40th birthday. He didn't score a point, but he made a bunch of his local fans proud.
David Lack described his introduction to motocross and photography like this: "I discovered motocross at this track in my hometown. I'm guessing I shot these photos in 1969 or so. I suppose those Yamahas were from '69 or '70. It's funny how I always had a camera with me. It's almost like if I was at a race, I had a camera. I was using a Kodak Instamatic here. The track was in Vicksburg, Mississippi and it was run by the Childs family. They pretty much ran a bulldozer through the woods and that was the track. I remember I didn't have a driver's license but I got there somehow. I'm sure my brother was right there with me. Anyway, I was all in with motocross after that."
Lack covered motocross in the Southeast throughout the 1970s and '80s. He never raced, but his brother Richard did, so he helped work on the bike, managed the pit board, and shot photos. He also went to various AMA Pro Motocross races around the region, at lost race tracks like Road Atlanta, Metrolina, Lake Whitney, St. Petersburg, and more. It was the Golden Era of American motocross, and his excellent photos provide us a record of races that might have otherwise been lost to time. You can see a sample of his work on Instagram.
Lack had the artist Curt Evans draw this cartoon for his brother Richard's 60th birthday. He wrote of the finished product: "This artwork means so much to me. I am a late stage cancer patient. The years my brother and I spent riding dirt bikes were some of the best of my life. I wanted him, heck both of us, to have a reminder of those fun days. I have my framed print in a place where I see it constantly. I love it! I didn’t race but I rode dirt bikes nonstop. My brother and I will always have great memories of those days."
Our colleague Brett Smith also wrote about David Lack’s passing and also features some of his amazing photos on www.wewentfast.com.
Michael J. Pollard
The actor Michael J. Pollard had roles in a lot of big motion pictures, including Dick Tracy, Scrooged, and Bonnie and Clyde, for which he received an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor. Pollard also co-starred alongside the Hollywood legend Robert Redford in one of Redford's lesser-known films, the 1970 motorcycle racing movie Little Fauss and Big Halsey. In the film Redford plays Halsey, a ne'er-do-well professional motorcycle racing vagabond of sorts. Pollard is Fauss, the not-so-fast amateur racer who becomes the star's wingman and mechanic. A love triangle ensues with a woman named Rita Nebraska, played by Lauren Hutton. Despite its often campy nature, the film portrayed motorcycling in a brighter light than most movies of its time, where the antagonists were too often leather-jacket-clad hoodlums. While the film is largely forgotten by mainstream audiences, it remains a motorcycle racing classic.
Terry Knott was a career man in the motorcycle industry, and like most folks who work in the two-wheeled world, he started out as a racer himself. Knott was primarily a flat-tracker in the 1960s, but he also raced the Daytona 200 a couple of times. When his own racing days ended, he found a role at Husqvarna just as the Swedish brand was expanding its AMA racing operations in America. He would soon become team manager, at a time when "Bad" Brad Lackey was the team's biggest name, albeit while racing part-time in America as he pursued his dream of being FIM 500cc World Champion. He then followed one of his other riders, Mark Blackwell, to American Suzuki, where he would spend the next 34 years—the rest of his motorcycle industry career—in a variety of roles, beginning as district sales manager for Southern California, and then later on as an events specialist. Knott could often be found under the Suzuki tent at big gatherings at events racing from the Americade Rallies to the Loretta Lynn's AMA Amateur National Motocross Championship, helping not only Suzuki riders but any rider on any brand who might need a hand. Knott passed in January after a long illness. He was 78 years old.
Chris Carter's voice, with its slow cadence and deep British accent, somehow became synonymous with Daytona Bike Week, the motorcycle tradition held annually at America's best-known raceway. Carter hosted a nightly radio show during the week, as well as helping out with race announcing duties and press conferences. He also worked in the Media Center, credentialing visiting journalists while trading barbs and bench-racing tales. Carter had grown up in a motorcycle racing and promoting family in England, and he first picked up a microphone at age 12. He lived his entire life around motorcycling, accumulating what his friend and fellow journalist Larry Lawrence described as "an encyclopedic knowledge" of racing that allowed him to both entertain and educate his audiences. Wrote Lawrence in Cycle News following Carter’s passing in November: "Carter was a one-of-a-kind personality and a person who dedicated his life to motorcycle racing. His passing leaves us without one of the greats who worked tirelessly to do his part to give listeners and readers a deeper glimpse into our personalities of the sport."
Motocross in Germany lost two of its biggest stars of yesteryear. Herbert Schmitz was part of a wave of German-bred motocrossers who were among the best in the world in the seventies, including included Adolf Weil, Hans Maisch, and Willy Bauer. They primarily raced on German-made Maico motorcycles, which were at their zenith then, though Schmitz would also find some success on the Austrian brand Puch (1974-'76) before returning to the Maico stable. It was in 1978 that Schmitz had his best season, finishing fourth in the FIM 500cc World Championships behind only Heikki Mikkola, Brad Lackey, and Roger De Coster. While mostly unknown here in America, Schmitz did appear on the cover of Motocross Action magazine in a photograph made by Geoff Fox, the cofounder of Fox Racing. Schmitz’s professional career came to a close in 1982. Later in life he became a regular participant in vintage races and reunion events until he suffered a stroke. This past March, Schmitz was in an assisted living home when he was injured in a fall. He passed away the very next day. Herbert Schmitz was 72 years old.
Unlike most German contenders of his era, Rolf Dieffenbach was affiliated throughout his career with Maico motorcycles, though he did start his Grand Prix career on one in 1977. He was signed by Kawasaki the following year, then found his way onto a Honda. Dieffenbach won three German titles and two 250cc Grand Prix races. The first of his GP wins—Spain in 1980—was also the first for Honda in the FIM 250cc World Championships. It also helped propel him to a best-ever finish of fourth that year in the world rankings. His last year in the GPs was 1983, in which he finished seventh. Dieffenbach was riding a touring motorcycle this past summer when his transmission went out, causing oil to spill on the highway. He lost control of the bike and crashed into a guardrail, killing the 69-year-old Dieffenbach instantly.
Russ Bennett was a warm, kind man who never raced motocross, nor did he have kids who rode. But way back in 1979, Bennett drove from his home in Pennsylvania to Otter Creek, Iowa, for the old AMA Youth Motocross Nationals with a close friend who had a son who did race. Bennett found the sport of motocross interesting and exciting, but at nearly 50 years of age, he’d missed his window to start racing. But when he returned home and went to a local race—maybe it was at High Point, or maybe Brownsville, or maybe even Country Springs—Bennett noticed that the race didn't have an official-looking referee or head flagman. He inquired what it would take to get licensed to be a flagger and was probably told “not much” in those halcyon days of local motocross.
It wasn't long before Russ Bennett was out there with his own set of official race flags, a striped shirt, white slacks, AMA hat, even his own handmade 30-second board to start the motos. Bennett went to the races every weekend, and soon the riders started calling him "Captain Russ," not realizing that years earlier he served in the U.S. Army in the Korean War. For 15 years, Captain Russ worked the races, becoming a fixture at motocross and off-road races all over the region, including the Loretta Lynn's AMA Amateur Nationals, which earned him a shout-out from Dave Despain on ESPN's Motoworld. Bennett had a real job at Cooper Industries and was a member of the United Steel Workers Local #3968. And when he retired from that after 43 years, he also retired from his role as a motocross referee/starter/finish line flagman.
The last race Captain Russ attended was the 2019 High Point National in June, a race he worked often in the 1980s and '90s. His last checkered flag waved out in August. He was 87 years old.
In July this past summer, Sidney Harmon was trying to break up a fight between a friend of his and another person outside an Alabama bar called the Circle W when the second man pulled out a knife and stabbed Harmon in the chest. He was 27 years old. The man with the knife was charged with murder.
Sidney Harmon was passionate about motocross racing and Alabama football, according to his father, Gerald. The Harmons—Gerald, Sidney, and his brother Gerald Jr.—started racing in 2004 when Sid was 12 years old. "Our life and weekend schedule revolved around those two passions," wrote Gerald on Vital MX after his son's funeral. "Our spring schedules consisted of which LLQ we could make, and this past year was our 15th consecutive Atlanta Supercross. We went to several outdoor nationals over the years including Jacksonville about three weeks ago. We spent a whole week down there vacationing. I am glad we did as this proved to be the last times I would ever spend with my boy. We talked regularly but both having opposing schedules for work it was hard to see each other even though we were separated by only one mile."
"After going through the last week I noticed one thing," wrote Gerald. "My boy had made an impact on everyone he met. He was universally liked/loved. He always had a smile and most everyone loved him. I have never seen an outpouring of love like that. We tried to give Sidney a funeral I think he would have liked, representing his two loves. I think it was a success. The local track (War Eagle Mx in Auburn, AL) came and got Sid's bike and cleaned it up like it had never been cleaned before. Backyard Design got him a new front plate with new number background and side plates (this was done in less than two days). The bike was set up outside the funeral home for all to sign. And man did they. Then we put his bike graveside and cranked it up for one last (well, several) rev-limiter busting revs. What was funny is it seems ol' Sid got the last laugh. If anyone knew Sid they knew that he has always had bikes that were difficult to crank (whether it was him or the bike) but his poor brother had to kick and kick to fire it off. I am sure he was laughing inside that casket."
Added Mr. Harmon, "Sidney was a great son, brother and uncle to his nephew who he almost always gave advice to on the starting gate before Eden would go out to race. He never made it to Loretta's and he knew he wouldn't but we always tried and have many a road trip filled with laughs and love. It was enough to fill a lifetime.... If you see some old guy (late 40s) with a #471 Alabama T-shirt on at Loretta's next week, please say hi. Kobe Hefner will be carrying Sid around with him at Loretta's next week in Open Pro Sport and 250 Pro Sport. Wish him luck. He never made it to Loretta', but he will this year, if only in spirit."
Dick and Beverly Klamfoth
Dick and Beverly Klamfoth were married for 63 years. They were also around motorcycles for much of that time. Klamfoth was one of the fastest American motorcycle racers of the 1950s, winning the Daytona 200, then the sport's biggest single race, three different times. This was back when the race was held on Daytona Beach and the sand would get whooped-out and bermed-up, making it more of a scrambles than a road race. Dick was just 20 years old when he won it the first time, in 1949, riding a British-built Norton. He retired from racing in 1962, then promptly went into the motorcycle business, opening a Honda shop outside Columbus, Ohio, which Beverly managed. Klamfoth also became a promoter, building a facility called Honda Hills in central Ohio that had several a dirt track, TT course and a motocross track that held Trans-AMA races in the early seventies. The track is no longer in use, but the sign for it is still visible in the woods alongside Interstate 70, on the north side of the highway, just past Mile Marker 136. The Klamfoths hailed from Ohio but were also regulars around Daytona, where Dick made it his mission to erect a monument to remember the old beach-racing days (1937-1960), which ended with the completion of the buildout of Daytona International Speedway. Beverly was equally committed to the project and joined him in organizing and promoting the project. After years of raising funds, the Daytona 200 Monument was built and can be found at 100 N. Atlantic Avenue, which is beachside of the Daytona Beach Hilton-Ocean Walk Village. Sadly, no sooner had the Daytona 200 Monument been completed than the Klamfoths’ home near the old Honda Hills track burned to the ground. They were fortunately not injured, but they lost pretty much everything.
In May of this year, Beverly passed away at the age of 82. Seven months later, Dick Klamfoth passed at 90. The family asked both times that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Daytona 200 Monument at www.daytona200monument.com.
(The most recent picture originally ran on www.roadracingworld.com.)
Vic Eastwood should have been the FIM 500cc World Motocross Champion in 1969. The Englishman had something of a breakthrough the previous year. After being sacked by the BSA works team, he lined up on a Husqvarna and won two 500cc Grand Prix races—his home race at Farleigh Castle, as well as the series final in Luxembourg. Eastwood was already considered one of the best scramblers in the world, having proven himself on the biggest stage by being part of the wining British teams for three FIM Motocross des Nations (1965-'67), but he couldn't put it all together for a full season to win a championship. His best finish to date came in 1965 when he finished fourth overall behind Jeff Smith, Paul Friedrichs, and Rolf Tibblin—all multi-time FIM World Champions. In '69 he would be going up against the likes of Bengt Aberg, Ake Jonsson, and a young Roger De Coster, yet many thought he was the preseason favorite. Sadly, Eastwood crashed in a preseason race at Hawkstone Park and badly broke his leg, dashing his title hopes. Vic would race again, but the window had closed on his championship aspirations.
No matter, Vic Eastwood would enjoy a very rich life, racing on and off the Grand Prix circuit throughout the seventies aboard a wide variety of brands. He would also open a popular Honda motorcycle dealership called Vic Eastwood Motorcycles, which is still in operation. He had two boys who raced, Mark and Scott, with Mark becoming a British Champion and longtime GP rider in his own right.
When he passed in December at the age of 78, the Eastwood dealership's Facebook page was inundated with messages from riders young and old whom Vic had helped along the way. His generosity was well-known, as was his competitiveness and his patience for others. Vic Eastwood was a proper legend.
That's Vic on the left.
Ronnie Lusk was a parent who did everything he could to help his kids live their dreams. And because his boys Ezra and Shane wanted to be motocross racers, that often meant working day and night. According to a family friend, "Ronnie gave of himself sacrificially and worked tirelessly in hopes his children would have better lives than he had growing up." Lusk was born in Logan, West Virginia, the hub of the region's once-thriving coal mining industry, though it was in decline by the time Lusk was born (near the end of World War II) due to the mechanization of mining. So Lusk found his way south to Georgia and became a logger. He also enjoyed working on any kind of motor. Later, as Lusk's oldest son, Ezra, became a successful factory rider for all four Japanese brands—Suzuki, then Yamaha, next Honda, and finally Kawasaki—he became a riding coach for others. Ronnie and his wife, Willa, had been together for 49 years of marriage before he passed away in December at the age of 76.
Ron Sun was once a Honda factory rider and very formidable on the AMA Pro Motocross circuit, especially when it rained. He and his older brother Chuck grew up racing Husqvarnas in the Northwest, where mud skills are practically a given for motocross racers. Both boys made it to the very highest level of racing. In fact, Chuck Sun is the 1980 AMA 500c Motocross Champion and a member of the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame. Ron's career might have been equally successful if not for a couple of untimely injuries, the first of which was a broken leg in 1979 shortly after both Sun brothers were signed by Team Honda. The high point of Ron Sun's career was the 1980 FIM 125cc U.S. Grand Prix at Mid-Ohio, where he won the second moto in a quagmire. That achievement would be overshadowed by the overall win of a young Johnny O'Mara on a Mugen Honda. By 1982, Ron Sun was done with professional motocross, though he would remain active as a vet racer well trough his forties, as well as an off-road trail rider. Earlier this year, Ron passed away as a result of heart and kidney failure. He was 60 years old.
Lukasz Lonka and Wiktoria Wicinska
Motocross in Poland was rocked with two racing tragedies this past summer. First came the news that Lukasz Lonka, a multi-time Polish National Champion and regular member of his country's Motocross of Nations team, crashed hard while racing in the East Motocross Cup for his motocross club AMK Człuchów. Paramedics on the scene were able to briefly revive him and then transport him to a nearby hospital. Lonka was well-known in Europe, as he had participated regularly in the MX3 World Championships, the EMX Championships, Dutch Masters, the ADAC in Germany, and more. Sadly, the 29-year-old Lonka was never able to recover, and he passed away in the hospital the next week, leaving behind his young wife and their daughter.
Less than a month later, tragedy struck the Polish motocross community again. Wiktoria Wicinska, just 15 years old, was competing in a race in Lipno, Poland. She had won the same race, a regional championship, one year earlier for her club KM Cross Lublin. After she hit the ground, her cartwheeling bike came down on her. She was rushed to a nearby hospital, where she died that evening.
"Wiktoria was my class friend," a fellow 15-year-old named Antoni told a local newspaper reporting on the accident. "Always cheerful, smiling and full of life. It is very difficult for me to accept this loss... She was always smiling, you could always talk to her on various topics. She was a close person to me who never refused to help me."
Our colleague in Europe, "MX Geoff" Meyer, wrote on his website MX Large about the highly respected Italian journalist Adriano Dondi after learning the sad news that Dondi had passed away in a motorcycle accident: "I was fortunate enough to get to know Andriano the last couple of years, even sharing a room with him at one of the fly-away events last year in Indonesia. His stories about his family and his love for his family were always warming, and he was a very sweet, honest man who loved what he was doing at the motocross races. The entire motocross community is deeply saddened to hear of this loss. Adriano Dondi has had an important role in the Motocross World Championship and the motocross world in general. MXGP will always remember you as a smiling friend and colleague."
When Davey Yezek passed away this fall at the age of just 44, it sent a wave throughout the local motocross community. Yezek was one of the best riders the state of Pennsylvania ever produced, and his family was a staple at the races throughout the 1980s and '90s as he was a riding amateur prospect on the national stage. He reached nearly a dozen AMA 125 Supercross podiums and came agonizingly close to winning a couple. But his ascent in professional motocross was hampered by injuries, and he eventually found himself doing regular work, doing local racing and still having fun on dirt bikes.
When we first reported Davey's passing in Racerhead #47 I wrote about the time he got to go ride at Loretta Lynn's when the track was still covered with grass and awaiting the tractors, just before all the families started pulling in for the big AMA Amateur National Motocross Championships there. The shoot was part of Fox Racing's "Dream On" campaign, and it eventually made the 1995 Fox Racing calendar. Unfortunately, I no longer had the chrome slide, nor did I have a copy of that old calendar to share what the photo actually looked like. But at the celebration of Yezek's life that was held in his hometown of Mt. Pleasant, Pennsylvania, Davey's mom, Mary, and wife, Abby, had laid out a bunch of his old riding gear, number plates, licenses, trophies, and more. They also took a picture frame off the basement wall of the Yezek family home—it was the August 1995 Fox Racing calendar page. After we cut the grass out on the track and put up some banners for contrast, he geared up, got on his KX125, and did a dozen passes over the infield tabletop. This is the one that made the calendar. Afterward, with Davey still in his Fox gear, we rolled up the banners, pulled out the wooden stakes, and watched as the tractors came out to get the place race-ready. It was a really good day.
Four years ago, the Joe Gibbs Racing family announced that JD Gibbs, one of NFL Hall of Fame Coach Joe Gibbs' sons, was stepping down from his role running the NASCAR team. JD was suffering from some sort of degenerative neurological disease and wanted to take time to address it. Unfortunately, in January, JD Gibbs passed away as a result of the disease. Shortly after the tragic news broke, Jason Weigandt, JD's friend and neighbor in Charlotte, North Carolina, remembered him on Racer X's Exhaust website:
"Because JD was on the NASCAR side of the business, I didn't see him as often (as his brother Coy), but he was still the nicest guy whenever I did see him. He didn't need to be, but that's the Gibbs way—they are just great people. A few years ago, when I was starting to get a toe hold into NASCAR broadcasting, JD and Coach gave me credibility by saying hey whenever I would see them at NASCAR functions. They didn't have to do that. I doubt anyone on earth has more acquaintances than Joe Gibbs. JD was operating a company with 500-plus employees. But he always had time, he was always joking around and smiling. One time at lunch in town, JD spotted me at a table and walked over just to bench race for a few minutes. He didn't need to do that, but he was just that kind of guy.
"In 2015, some strange news broke that JD was suffering from a degenerative neurological disease, and the team announced he would go on hiatus until they figured out what was going on. At the time, no one really knew what this meant or how serious this was, and out of respect for the Gibbs family, no one really pried into the matter. This was a successful family with access to the best possible medical care. Surely JD would be okay, right?
"It became clear this was indeed quite serious when Coy was moved over to the NASCAR side two years ago... Despite a NASCAR schedule of 30-plus races, Coy still shows up at motocross and supercross races when he can.
"In public, JGR and the Gibbs family have remained strong. Their businesses keep rolling. Behind the scenes, things must have been tragic. JD passed away on Friday. It's the saddest of sad things. Coach Joe Gibbs will first be associated with success—no one else on earth can claim Super Bowl rings and NASCAR Championships. But anyone who has rubbed elbows with the Gibbs family, in racing, or even, I'd imagine, in the NFL, will talk of things far beyond on track or on field accomplishments. Coach is a great person, first and foremost, and it's clear his children turned out to be the same. JD was a shining light whenever you saw him."
Longtime arenacross and auto racing announcer Robbie Floyd memorialized Lanny Cox after his longtime friend in the Texas moto family passed away after an accident at Badlands MX:
"I am fortunate to do what I do for a living, I get paid to talk about my friends. Unfortunately I lost one of those friends today. Lanny Cox wasn't an Indycar winner like Dan Wheldon or Justin Wilson but he loved the sport of motocross as much as both of them loved open wheel racing. All three lost their lives doing what they loved. All three had wives and children that will miss them dearly. What's crazy is that Lanny and I had a Facebook conversation the very morning of his crash. His words were 'God I don’t think there’s any feeling like ripping a KX125 around old-style LWCR.' I pray that God keeps that Lake Whitney feeling forever in Lanny. I feel heartache for his family just like I did for my buddies Dan and Justin. It's hard for me to deal with a fellow moto bro's death, but as a former racer I do have a little bit of solace that he was doing what he loved. Rest in peace LC43, we will race again."
Jesse Rooke was one of the coolest people one might ever meet. He was a racer, an artist, a mechanic, a personality. He was highly respected in just about every form of motorsports, because the works of art he produced in his namesake Jesse Rooke Custom Garage. Wrote Cycle World of the laid-back Rooke: "With his ubiquitous baseball cap, shorts, and skate shoes, you could easily mistake Jesse Rooke for a skater or surfer looking for the next edge to carve, but behind that easy demeanor was a master customizer and designer whose benchwork, welding, and painting skills were a combined force to be reckoned with. Rooke’s distinctive one-offs regularly made the pages of various motorcycle magazines; and the man was prolific, turning around a slick custom build sometimes in mere weeks, whereas most of his competitors would take months."
Rooke started out as a motocross rider, as he explained in this video interview for Rekluse Motor Sports:
Though his star was always rising in the custom-building world, he never lost touch with his friends in motocross and supercross, and could often be found in the pits at races like the Anaheim SX, the Glen Helen National, Red Bull Straight Rhythm, and the Monster Energy Cup. Rooke was killed on one of his bikes in April while riding on the Carefree Highway outside Phoenix. Jesse is survived by his partner Ashley Blair and daughter Scarlett.
Les Archer Jr.
Les Archer Jr. was true British motorcycle royalty. He was born in 1929 in a town called Aldershot southwest of London. His father was motorcycle racing pioneer Les Archer, who was already a top motorcycle racer known as the "Aldershot Flyer" when motocross as we know it was invented as a "merry old scrambles" at the 1924 Royal Scot Trial. After World War II, Archer Jr. began racing in speed trials and road races like the Isle of Man TT, as well as off-road races like the 1950 International Six Days Trial, in which he raced for the British Army team. He was also a member of the victorious British teams that topped the 1952 and '53 FIM Motocross des Nations. And then in 1956, one year before the FIM began recognizing a 500cc Motocross World Champion, Archer won the de facto world title as European champion aboard an English-built Norton Manx. By this point Archer was getting more and more into the development of motorcycles with his friend Eric Cheney, and the two of them became among the most celebrated engineers in motorcycling history. They also took over Norton's motocross program after the brand decided to focus on road racing. Archer also continued to race, primarily in French invitationals, until he ultimately retired in 1967.
As he got older, Archer worked as a broadcaster and journalist around the races, stayed active in the vintage motorcycling community, and even returned to Imola, Italy, a couple of times in recent years to reenact the glory days of that legendary circuit. He even got his beloved Norton Manx back out of the Birmingham National Motocross Museum in Britain to lead a ceremonial lap at Imola in 2014. Les Archer passed away just before Christmas at the age of 91, two years younger than his father and fellow British motorcycling royalty was when he died in 2001.
Georgiana Hubbard McCabe was not the kind of person who ever wasted time, nor the opportunity to laugh and smile and help others. She lived a busy life, studying, teaching, working, and serving on a wide variety of philanthropic causes and community services. Among her many passions were conservationism and caring for animals. In 1995 she helped found and chair the Equestrian Land Conservation Resource (ELCR), an organization in Virginia that protects and conserves private land for equestrian use. Giana, as her friends called her, was also named a fellow of the Virginia Natural Resources Leadership Institute, and then also became a board member at the UVA Cancer Center, with a focus on a group called Patients and Friends Research Fund, with a mission of improving the quality of life for people living with cancer and terminal illnesses.
When her son Nick McCabe told her he wanted to start racing minicycles, she encouraged it to the point of wearing down Nick's hesitant father. Besides all the work she did in her community and on her farms, Giana was also found the time to be minicycle mom.
After being diagnosed a couple of years ago with metastatic melanoma, Giana retired to her beloved Snow Mountain Farm in Virginia to live out her life around her friends and family and of course her plants and animals.
“We came back to Snow Mountain Farm to celebrate our time together,” she said shortly before she passed. “The stories and laughter and ice cream socials we had along with movie night, the flowers, butterflies, birds, bees, cats, friends, and gigantic delicious meals, that made it just delicious for me. Who cares about manners! For me, the sense of wholeness that comes from friends and family just resting in each others’ company, without any sense of strife nor disagreement, is simply divine.”
She was 78 when her time on earth ended in August. Her obituary said, "In the end she moved on to her next journey with amazing grace in typical 'Giana' fashion, teaching one final lesson: despite life’s inevitable struggles with pain and confusion, it can also give way to peace, companionship, healing and love."
Rhys "Roo" Burnett
Rhys "Roo" Burnett was a fledgling star on the Western Australian motocross scene. In 2018, Burnett took two state class titles and then placed sixth at the Australian Junior MX Championships in Tasmania. This year, Burnett was competing in the final round of the state championships in Manjimup, a well-known track in the southwest of Western Australia that hosted the 1992 Motocross des Nations. He was leading the race just after the start when he crashed. The teenager was airlifted to Royal Perth Hospital, where he later died from his injuries.
His coach and friend Luke Davis told a local newspaper that Burnett "was just a natural, he would try anything. He was one of the best kids that I ever had the privilege of coaching. All he ever wanted to do was make me proud, make his parents proud and he did a damn good job at it."
Of the crash that took Burnett's life, Davis said it was no one's fault. "We all saw what happened — it was just a typical race incident. He had all his protective gear on... This is motocross and you never know what can happen. But at the same time it can happen on a footy oval, on a cricket field, it can happen crossing the street. At least he was doing something that he loved."
Jay Taylor was a well-known comedian and ad executive in Tucson, Arizona. Born and raised in Texas, he moved west and founded Taylor Advertising, creating several iconic regional ad campaigns for Arizona businesses. One of his creations was the Arizona Lottery’s mascot Windfall Willie, which is still used today.
Taylor also enjoyed comedy, and his stand-up act was well-known. In the 1960s he and his comedy partner Frank Kalil produced an album called My Plumber Doesn't Make House Calls! which was a hit. He even ended up performing on such popular TV shows as The Tonight Show and The Andy Williams Show.
In fact, Taylor was supposed to perform in early December with several other Tucson comedians in the annual Arroyo Cafe Holiday Radio Show, a 90-minute variety show that raises money for local charities. That was supposed to happen after he recovered from heart surgery he’d had earlier in the fall. Unfortunately, Taylor came down with pneumonia and never got out of the hospital.
Taylor enjoyed riding dirt bikes throughout his life, and the combination of his creativity and love of motorcycling was passed down to his son Andy Taylor, who is well-known as a creative mind in the motorcycling industry. Andy posted this note to his father upon his passing at the age of 81: "Dad, thank you. Thank you for introducing me to my life’s passions: dirt bikes, the ad biz, carne seca cheese crisps, mountain air… You showed me the best things in life. Growing up with you as a dad was wonderful. You set an amazing example as a father-first man, and as an icon who did so much for your community. You touched so many with your love, humor, grace and gratitude."
For a time, Donnie Vawser was an aspiring privateer out of Kimberly, Idaho. He competed in various rounds of AMA Supercross and Pro Motocross, earning points through a few top-20 finishes.
But he read the writing on the wall and knew that pursuing a college degree might be a better bet for his future that just racing motorcycles, so off to school he went.
"Donnie actually scored some points while going to college,” said his longtime friend Jake Weimer, who grew up racing with Vawser and called Donnie his best friend. “He knew MX wasn’t going to make him a living but just loved it. He was one of our own—his home family were motorcycle enthusiasts. He was about as stand up a guy as someone could be.”
Upon graduation, Vawser became a mechanical engineer. He stayed in touch with his motocross friends like Weimer, and he also enjoyed playing golf and being out on the water. But it was his family he enjoyed most. Sadly, Donnie Vawser leaves behind a wife and a 2-year-old daughter. He was 30 years old.
Carlin Dunne was a fearless motorcycle rider who made a name for himself at one of the most unique and dangerous races of all, the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb in Colorado. Dunne had won the motorcycle portion of the event four times leading into the 2019 event, and he was the favorite in that race too. Riding a Ducati Streetfighter V4 Prototype, Dunne had qualified fastest overall leading up to the race, which gave him the Superpole position for the final event. Racing up the 14,115-foot mountain's roads, Dunne set the fastest time in each section he completed. He was clearly going to set a new course record and was in sight of the checkered flag and a fifth overall win when he hit an uneven patch of road, high-sided his motorcycle at speed, and went flying off the edge of the road to the rocks below.
“There are no words to describe our shock and sadness,” Ducati North America CEO Jason Chinnock said. “Carlin was part of our family and one of the most genuine and kind men we have ever known. His spirit for this event and love of motorcycling will be remembered forever as his passing leaves a hole in our hearts.”
The last 24 hours of Carlin Dunne's life were documented by a video crew that was following him through the Pikes Peak event. They released some of the footage as a tribute to their fallen friend.
Carlin Dunne was the seventh fatality in the 97-event history of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb.
Brian Stewart was a big part of the Minnesota motocross family. He was one of those people who are just there for anyone who might need them, whether it was working on a bike, a tractor, flagging, whatever. He had just turned 50 when he was diagnosed with cancer. Sadly, it was a very aggressive form, and Stewart passed away in February. Upon his passing, Greta Martin of Spring Creek Motocross Park wrote, "There is not enough space or words to cover all the wonderful things he brought to the world and our moto families. He was a wonderful man, husband, father, brother, uncle, grandparent and friend. His steadfastness, patience and love for all will be forever with those of us who knew him, from watching him teach Myanna to ride, to always lending a helping hand wherever needed, always having his loved ones on his 4-wheeler, his enjoyment of racing, helping Brandon and Katelyn race too. RIP Brian."
Jason Webb was part of a well-known motocross family. His father, Tipper, and uncles Tom and Mike have all been part of the motorcycle industry. Wrote Tom, a longtime editor known to Dirt Bike magazine readers as "Wolfman": "Jason grew up on a dirt bike and became a gifted rider under the training of his father and uncles. He was well known in the magazine industry, first as my test rider and photo model for Dirt Rider magazine, later working on MX Racer, and launching Mini Rider magazine. Jason raced for the USA in 2003 in Brazil at the ISDE where he captured a silver medal. Throughout the years he had many other careers (paparazzi, opened a skate shop) followed by a 15-year career in the car industry running ride-and-drive events, getting paid to put a helmet on and live his dream. He was an incredible, special man who lived life to the fullest while he was here."
Jason Webb is survived by his wife Stefanie, nine-year-old daughter London, and his three-year-old son Rider. Friends have set up a Children of Jason Webb Scholarship Fund to help out with the education of his kids London and Rider. You can find it right here.
In January, Clayton Haney was participating in an indoor motocross race at Hale Arena at the American Royal Center in Kansas City. The race marked the 15th round of a series called the Nitro Arenacross Nationals. Unfortunately, Haney lost control of his motorcycle, ran off the track, and hit a cinderblock wall. He was taken from the arena in critical condition and later died at a nearby hospital.
Another competitor in the January race was Bryan Jackson, who acts as the pastor for the Nitro AX Nationals. He posted on Instagram (@bryanjackson25): "Friday night I lined up with a 26-year-old young man named Clayton Haney #27... He crashed during the race and his injuries were just too much to overcome. From my understanding, Clayton was a believer and we all can take comfort in that - Praise God.... He was a top contender in many of his races and even had two podium finishes the day of his passing. He apparently lived a bold and vibrant life and loved sharing his happiness with those around him. I was blessed to pray over him after his accident, along with some of his family and friends, sharing God's promises of love and hope. The riders Chapel Service on Friday morning, before the accident, was a reminder to all attending that life is indeed precious - and that we all will enter eternity at some point. Jesus is our only guarantee that we will not be separated from God when that time comes."
Haney's fiancée, Shelby Winn, told local news station Fox 4 that he had a deep passion for racing. "He just loved trying to bring happiness to not only himself, but to everyone else by riding and letting them ride and showing them how to ride," said Winn. "It just was him completely. He loved every second of everything that he was doing. He loved riding in that if this was his time to be called, this is the way he would’ve wanted it. He passed doing exactly what he loved."
Miss Maie Story
There is a section of the motocross track at Loretta Lynn Ranch in Hurricane Mills, Tennessee, halfway around where it goes back into the woods briefly. The race announcers there have long referred to it affectionately as "Storyland." They don't call it that because it’s enchanted or dark and scary or anything like that. Rather, they call it Storyland because for years the Story family, neighbors of Loretta Lynn, have been caution-flaggers in that particularly section. Year after year, they show up just after dawn, make sure all of the tear-offs and empty water bottles are cleaned up, put up their umbrellas, and spend the next ten-plus hours flagging the AMA Amateur National Motocross Championships. The Story family has become part of the fabric of the event, dependable and hardworking, arriving early and staying late, and keeping an eye on what's going on with three generations of amateur motocross racers when they come visit the ranch. Miss Maie Story, the matriarch of the family, was right there with them, at least up until she got up there in years. At that point she became something of an infield manager to the rest of the flaggers, taking them refreshments and snacks, sunblock, and bug spray—whatever they needed to get the job done. In January of last winter, Miss Maie passed away after a long illness. She had been there since 1982, the very first year of the race, and she was sadly missed at the 2019 race—the first one she ever missed. But the rest of the Story family all came out to work Story Land and other parts of the track, just as they always have, and they were on time and ready to go every single day, just like Miss Maie taught them.
Brian Battaglia was once an aspiring pro rider from the Midwest who was part of a group that loosely called itself the "Fast Boys from Illinois," or FBI. They were the foil to the mighty Michigan Mafia, which was a pack of riders who came racing off the other side of Lake Michigan. Battaglia never quite made it as a professional racer, though he's in the Vault for having scored a single AMA Pro Motocross point in the 125 National at RedBud on July 4, 1993. But he was maybe more proud of the fact that he found himself in the first set of Hi-Flyers Motocross Trading Cards, which meant major street cred back in the early 1990s. Brian once told me he loved how every now and then he got a call or letter from someone who wanted him to sign his card for a collector’s set.
It's hard to pinpoint when exactly Battaglia's racing career ended, as he drifted off into parts south and southeast but sometimes popped up in local vet-class results in Florida, Georgia, and even back up in the Midwest. He also did a little open-wheel vintage automobile racing.
As time went on, the reports weren't always so good about his adventures and misadventures—he even got shot once in Naples in a "Florida Man" type of story—so it's hard to guess how and why his life starting running sideways and off the tracks.
We lost touch with him some years ago, but every now and then his name would come up in the comments section or on the message boards, preceded by that telltale question, “What ever happened to?” Or “Is this really the same Brian Battaglia that used to race?”
The last thing Battaglia posted on his Facebook page was the song "Adventure" by Angels & Airwaves, with this introduction: "A lil retro, still sounds fresh. 'I wanna have the same last dream again.' Love it."
That was on January 14. Two weeks later, Brian Battaglia died in his home state of Illinois at the age of 52. Godspeed to Hi-flyer #103.
Doug Kramer saw a lot of motocross races in his life, often from one of the best seats in the house. For 23 years he worked as an AMA official on the infields and inside stadiums as a couple generations’ worth of legendary riders did battle. He had found his way into officiating as a motorcycle riding enthusiast from Ohio. He also enjoyed hunting and fishing. Kramer worked for a time at F&S Kawasaki/Suzuki of Dayton, Ohio, and he was also a member of Local 162 Plumbers and Pipefitters Union, working at Danis Industries until he retired in 1995. All of this was after a stint in the U.S. Army, during which he was posted in Germany. And before that, Kramer played football for the Army football team. He also attended the University of Dayton. Doug passed away on the last day of July at the age of 84. He is survived by his wife of 51 years, Dolores, his son, Tony, his daughters, Dawn and Karen, and a granddaughter named Andrea.
Max Doughty spent much of his life surrounded by works of motocross art. He was born into the Vintage Iron family, and as a result he had access to some of the most prized vintage motorcycles that were ever produced. He also got to visit some of the best tracks in the country for events.
"Max and his brother Sam traveled like little factory riders to every corner of our country, absorbing all that is racing along the way," his father, Rick, wrote with the news of his passing. "He could name more motorcycle brands by age five than most 50-year-olds and in his 29 years he never lost his love for riding, racing and the people that surrounded it. He had so much more life ahead of him than behind him. Unfortunately that does not buy the young among us a pass from the dangers and cruel side of life... The sport was a part of him and he was a part of the sport. He was also a huge part of our hearts and he will always be with us."
Andy Atkins passed away on the last day of 2018 after suffering a stroke and a brain aneurism at the Lutheran Medical Center in Colorado. Atkins was well-known on the Colorado motocross scene. He won numerous Colorado State Championships, on all three sizes of motorcycle (125, 250, 500). His biggest accomplishment came not on the local scene but on the national stage of AMA Supercross: Atkins finished a solid eighth in the 1996 Denver AMA 125 Supercross, his hometown race, right between a couple of guys who would win AMA 125 Supercross main events, Casey Lytle and Jeff Willoh. What's also cool about Aktins' solid finish was the fact that he worked at the time for Vickery Motorsports as a salesman. Imagine the guy working the floor at your local bike shop telling you he finished in the top ten in an AMA Supercross on Saturday night!
Atkins eventually left Vickery Motorsports, but he always stayed close to the friends and fellow riders he met there. His next job was at Denver Electric Motors, where he was the office manager and inside sales rep. But he continued to enjoy motocross and riding with his son Christian.
Atkins wasn't only fast, he was kind and he was giving. A fellow Colorado rider named Ryan Lucero wrote that Andy "helped make me who I am. I met him at a tough time in my life and he took me and family under his wing to help us in Moto. It changed me forever! He was passionate and most humble guy I ever met." Another friend, Pete Hilsenbeck, posted: "You were a great man with a pure heart who never spoke a bad word about anyone. You are deeply loved and admired by all, you will dearly be missed my friend."
The last act of kindness for Andy Atkins was giving the gift of life as an organ donor. He was able to help many people by donating kidneys, corneas, bone, and tissue through Colorado Donor Alliance. He was 48 years old.
Jonathan Mayzak hailed from Murrells Inlet, South Carolina. His mother got him his first motorcycle, a Suzuki JR50, at the age of 4, and within a year he was doing local races. (His first race was at Bremen MX in Georgia, where he remembered being on a full gate but beating only or two other kids.) Mayzak grew into a fine young rider, and by the time he got on big bikes, he was qualifying for the Pro Sport classes at Loretta Lynn's. He did some National Arenacross events, then found his way to Canada for a couple of summers. For 2019 he got his AMA Pro Motocross license, and he achieved a huge personal goal when he qualified for his first 250 National at WW Ranch in Jacksonville, Florida. One week later, Jonathan did it again, this time at Southwick. The next big thing on Mayzak's check list was to get married on October 23 to his longtime girlfriend Mackenzie Hebbleman.
Mayzak was at the Unadilla National in August the evening before the race when he and his little brother Matthew, on leave from the U.S. Marine Corps, started walking out to the parking lot across the road out front, New York's Route 8. It was getting dark when they attempted to cross, and the driver of a car coming down the road apparently did not see him. Jonathan was struck by the automobile and suffered severe injuries. Paramedics and state troopers did their best to save Mayzak, but after fighting to stay alive for some 40 hours, he passed away in the Utica hospital. It was a terrible and unexpected tragedy that rocked the whole paddock. (The car’s driver was arrested for driving while impaired.)
One week later at Budds Creek in Maryland, a candlelight vigil was held for Jonathan Mayzak on the infield above the starting gate. Practically the whole pro paddock turned out for it. Friends and family told stories of his passion for motocross, as well as his kindness. Just 20 years old, Mayzak's last act of life spent doing the right things was to donate his organs so others might live. Since then, 52 other people were helped by a young man they never met, Jonathan Mayzak.
Road 2 Recovery set up a memorial fund for Mayzak, which you can find right here.
Rene Torres was a contractor by trade but a motocross racer at heart, and by all accounts a really nice guy. His friend Steve Cathey described Torres as being "honest, trustworthy, dependable, happy, friendly, hardworking and family man." Torres and his wife, Atlantida, were raising two boys, Giancarlo and Giovani, in Southern California. In June, Rene was out riding at Barona MX Park near Lakeside when he landed awkwardly off of the finish-line jump, lost control of his motorcycle, and ran off the track, hitting a spectator. The spectator was seriously injured, but Torres was rushed to Sharps Memorial in San Diego where he underwent immediate surgery for internal bleeding. Unfortunately, the doctors could not save him.
A close family friend named Dan Edwards wrote of Torres, "The time I spent with Rene was typically with the boys on one motocross track or another, or enjoying a bite to eat afterward. In that time, I came to know Rene as a very good man, a caring and dedicated father, and a loving and devoted husband. Rene and I shared a passion for motorcycles that we were able to share with our sons. Sadly, however, the tragedy has left us all hurting."
A GoFundMe page was set up by Edwards to help the family of Rene Torres in the wake of this tragedy.
Carlin Beri was Specialist E4 in the U.S. Army National Guard who also happened to love motocross. He lived near Pleasure Valley Raceway in Pennsylvania and was a regular at the track, whether he was racing or not. When he didn't have his bike or it wasn't his class out on the track, he would help out with flagging, banners, whatever. When he wasn't at the track, he enjoyed playing his guitar and banjo. He was also very proud of his Irish roots. Beri was just 27 when he died unexpectedly and much too young in February. Military rites at his burial were conducted by the Pennsylvania Military Funeral Honor Team, and his family asked that in lieu of flowers, contributions be made to the Wounded Warrior Project.
Gene Romero was an incredibly versatile and accomplished motorcycle racer who could win on dirt tracks as well as pavement. Raised in central California, Romero started out as a TT and scrambles racer, sliding his Triumph around the highly competitive flat track circuits of the area. (This was back when motocross racing as we now know it was in its infancy and supercross had yet to be invented.) Romero also became a regular at the famous Ascot Park, where he’s said to have lied about his age in 1964 to get an AMA Pro Racing license. Back then the AMA Grand National Championships consisted of flat track, TT, and road racing, so Romero soon added sport bikes to his arsenal. He began rising in national prominence just as motorcycle racing was about to get a huge boost in America, as Bruce Brown was in the process of filming his iconic film On Any Sunday, following the exploits of movie star Steve McQueen, desert legend Malcolm Smith, and Grand National competitor Mert Lawwill. One of the main locations for the film was the Sacramento Mile, which "Burrito," as he was nicknamed, won. He went on to become the youngest AMA Grand National Champion ever in 1970, at the age of 22.
Romero's biggest single race win didn't come on dirt, but rather the blistering fast pavement of Daytona International Speedway. By this point, Romero had left the struggling Triumph company to ride for Yamaha. At the time, the brand had the two biggest names in motorcycling, FIM World Champion Giacomo Agostini of Italy and "King" Kenny Roberts, Romero’s California neighbor. Both entered the 200, then considered the single biggest motorcycle race in America. Somehow, Romero outmaneuvered both of them over the course of the 200 miles, landing himself the Daytona win.
Romero was also known for his salesmanship and business savvy. In 1976 he landed himself sponsorship from none other than Evel Knievel. He was also a pioneer in how to market oneself as a racer, as he was one of the first land outside-the-industry sponsorship from companies such as Busch Beer and Ocean Pacific.
After retiring from racing, Romero became the manager of Honda's dirt track team, leading Ricky Graham and Bubba Shobert to four consecutive Grand National Championships. After that, he decided to become a race promoter, trying to help his beloved but declining dirt track racing.
In 1998, Gene Romero was inducted into AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame, though he wasn't done with the sport just yet. He was still promoting West Coast flat track races, as well as helping manage vending at Glen Helen Raceway's bigger events. When he passed away in May after a long illness, Gene Romero was 71 years old.
June Holliday was a motocross mom. She became one when she and her husband, Richard (known as "Doc"), were told by their son Ryan at a very young age that he wanted to race dirt bikes. So off they went to the races, almost every weekend of every summer. Along the way, she met new friends at racetracks of the Northeast and soon found new things to do, like helping out at registration and sign-up and then helping run AMA District 5 as well as PAMX. Doc Holliday also started helping out as an event referee and race official. June, on the other hand, would do the thankless and often anonymous jobs like checking scores, tallying points, rounding up contingency prizes, checking sanction forms, and making sure there was enough money in the coffers for the year-end banquets. She also kept a close eye on Ryan's progress, as well as her daughter Leslie. And when Ryan didn't quite make it as a pro, it was no problem—she had also been keeping an eye on his grades. Ryan ended up going to West Virginia University, then took a job at Racer Productions, and then the AMA, and then Kawasaki Team Green, which he now manages. Turns out that even while he was still racing, Ryan must have been keeping an eye on what June was doing as an organizer and supporter of a bunch of motocross kids. Holliday was watching over his riders and scouting others at Loretta Lynn Ranch this summer when he got a call from home telling him he needed to get back to Pennsylvania as soon as he could. June Ellen Holliday passed away a couple of days later at the age of 70.
Glenn Wisner was the soon-to-be stepdad behind young Jaydon McCurdy's racing program. Glenn and Jaydon's mom, Kimberly, were engaged to be married. In the meantime, you could always find them at PAMX races in Western Pennsylvania. Kim enjoyed taking photos of all the riders, while Glenn did his best to keep Jaydon’s bike’s running right. Together they were quite a team, winning several PAMX championships, including PAMX Rider of the Year honors. And when the whole family wasn't at the races, Glenn enjoyed hunting and fishing. Glenn Wisner was just 40 years old when he was overtaken by congenital heart failure this past spring.
In June, Ryder Schnowske of Cambridge, Illinois, was at Baja Acres in Michigan, trying to qualify at the Regional for the AMA Amateur National Motocross Championships. Quick and competitive, he was in a qualifying position early in the race, but then he crashed and went down hard. Ryder had just finished his freshman year of high school, and he hoped to someday become a professional motocross racer. His memorial service was held at Cambridge High School and attended by more than a thousand people, with his #632 Husqvarna in the center of it all.
In August, Ryder's parents and his brother and sister drove the same bike down from Illinois to Hurricane Mills, Tennessee, to visit with Ryder's friends and competitors at the big race he was hoping to be a part of. They also took a lap around the track in his honor, Ryder's #632 once again right in the center of it all.
Jason Berry was one of our own. He moved from his home in Haywards Hearth, England, to Morgantown, West Virginia, to work at Racer X magazine. We first met on a trip to Europe for the Motocross of Nations, when he was hanging out at the home of the Chamberlains, a well-known moto family in the UK. Jason was a funny, charismatic, and kind man. He was also part of a package deal of sorts: he was best friends with the man we’d just hired as Racer X Art Director, David Langran. Jason went to work in the shipping department, mailing out magazines and calling on motorcycle dealerships to carry the magazine, which was still in its infancy. His friendliness led him right into ad sales, and immediate success.
"His real legacy with our company came between assignments, through friendships, road trips, and so many incredible stories. He was a legend," wrote Jason Weigandt of Berry. "Every trip with Jason was an adventure, and be it at an iconic destination like Las Vegas, Anaheim, Laguna Seca or back home to Europe, or simply another night at Mario’s Fishbowl in Morgantown, there was never a dull moment. JB, as we called him, was on top of everyone’s best friend list."
Berry spent more than ten years with us, then moved into a sales manager gig at a local car dealership. He eventually moved to Florida, and then back home to England to manage a bicycle shop. And when we went to this year's Motocross of Nations in Assen, Holland, he was there with the Chamberlains, helping British team manager Mark by selling hats and T-shirts from their pits. How good of a salesman was JB? I bought two Team Great Britain hats, and I was with Team USA!
The first time and last time we saw Jason Berry was at the Motocross of Nations, first twenty-some years ago, and finally this year in the Netherlands. On the night of December 23, Berry was driving home when he went off the road and struck a tree. He was 46 years old. Godspeed, Jason.