Ohio bikers braved plunging temperatures and snow swept roads on Friday to honor the last wishes of an 82-year-old rider at his funeral. Billy Standley and his 1967 Harley-Davidson Electra Glide were buried together and he was literally laid to rest while riding his bike encased in a transparent Plexiglas coffin.
Standley had succumbed to lung cancer on Sunday but his funeral was almost 18 years in the making; the former rodeo rider had spent his life on a horse or on a motorcycle and had every intention of spending eternity in the same way. He pulled in the help of his sons Pete and Roy and they designed and built the customized coffin with a reinforced metal frame for the base covered in plywood that was painted bright green to symbolize the fields he rode horses across. The top of the base was painted black with a white enter line to symbolize the thousands of miles of roads he rode his motorcycle along.
To fulfil the request of the funeral home director that was willing to work with him – provided that Standley could ensure he didn’t topple off the motorcycle – the rider and his sons constructed a metal brace to encase his rib cage and keep his upper torso upright.
“We’ve done personalization but nothing this extreme,” said Tammy Vernon who works at the funeral home in Mechanicsburg. “He was the one who kept throwing this idea out there to be buried on his bike and we were glad to assist him.”
With the funeral home director, body brace, three burial plots next to his wife Lorna were purchased to ensure enough room was available, and the coffin constructed, Standley campaigned in 2009 before the Champaign County Board of Health for permission to be buried in accordance with his unique wishes. The board gave their permission provided that all the fluids were drained out of the bike.
Standley cheerfully showed off his unique coffin for years in advance to friends that stopped by and frequently said that he didn’t want to just “ride off to heaven” but that he wanted the world to see him do it “in a big see-through box”.
When Friday morning dawned, Standley was outfitted in his leathers and sunglasses atop his 1967 Elctra Glide. Even though the family acknowledged that the procession might be shocking to some along the route to the cemetery, they were committed to honoring his final wish. Many mourners in attendance wore motorcycle jackets at his graveside as they witnessed him and his motorcycle be lowered into the super-size plot.
“He’d done right by us all these years, and at least we could see he goes out the way he wanted to,” said his son Pete Standley.
Source: Washington Post – Associated Press