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Taking one last ride

If there is a heaven and people can indeed look down on us after they die, longtime Port Orchard resident Edwin Simonson would have enjoyed quite a sight Tuesday afternoon.

To say goodbye to the 88-year-old motorcycle enthusiast, Simonson’s family enlisted the help of a Harley-Davidson hearse that carried him on a final ride through town past his favorite spots before putting him to rest at Sunset Lane Cemetery.

The procession drove first by Uncle Dave’s Cafe, where his family said he headed on most mornings for breakfast.

In his younger years, Simonson drove his beloved Honda Goldwing motorcycle, but for the past decade or so he had taken to riding a Honda Helix scooter to the neighborhood restaurant on Lund Avenue.

Next, the procession headed by the home Simonson shared with his wife Sylvia from 1963 until he suffered a stroke and moved into the Ridgemont Terrace Nursing Home in 2003.

For Tuesday’s trip, the motorcycle hearse was driven by its creator Dave Eady, president of Olympic Motor Escort in Seattle, who said he made the unusual hearse a couple of years ago for very personal reasons.

“When I go, I wanna go on a motorcycle,” Eady said, explaining that the idea for fashioning a casket-carrying motorcycle for others came out of his desire to have such a vehicle at his own funeral.

To create the hearse, Eady said he started with a 1953 Harley-Davidson Panhead, choosing that model because it came with a sidecar.

“I unbolted the sidecar, then salvaged the casket rollers out of an old hearse,” he said, explaining that he can carry even larger coffins on the small vehicle. “We had one that was almost too small for it, actually — that was a 13-year-old girl.”

With no advertising except by word of mouth, Eady said he has only used the hearse a few times. Even David Rill of Rill Chapel did not know about it when he first called Eady for Simonson’s funeral.

“He told me (Simonson) loved riding his motorcycle, so I told him I happened to have this hearse, and he said ‘Tell me more,’” Eady recalled.

Rill then called Simonson’s family, and soon called Eady back to tell him they wanted the hearse.

“(Simonson’s) favorite thing in the world was his Goldwing motorcycle,” Rill said, explaining that he called Eady because he thought of simply having a motorcycle procession before learning about the hearse.

On Tuesday, the family gathered at Rill Chapel for Simonson’s memorial, then his casket — wrapped in an American Flag — was loaded onto the hearse and carefully strapped in for the ride.

Then for a few moments, it looked like the 54-year-old Harley was not going to cooperate by starting its engine for the ride.

“We should have put you on a Goldwing, buddy,” Eady said, just before the motorcycle’s engine finally roared to life. “A Goldwing wouldn’t have those problems — you just push a button.”

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