“It was the best of times; it was the worst of times…” Judge for yourself… Let’s begin with the “best of times.” Bob Dell, are you there? I am calling for Bob Dell in San Ramon. Remember your good friend, Dave Silva, in Danville? I believe you sent me his name and birthday so that I could give him a great big shout out. Well, as Dave said, “It’s time to repay the favor.” Happy, happy birthday to you on the 14th, and happy, happy retirement on that very same day. It is, indeed, a big day and a memorable year for you… Happy birthday to all riders who celebrate in April. Happy birthday to IHR members Chuck Brassfield in Los Gatos and Tim Young in Santa Cruz. Happy birthday to Stephen Tahija in Manteca, Leoni Watts in San Jose and to Jani Albers in Woodland or Florida. Say, Jani, where do you live these days? Happy birthday to Dan DeLeuw in Santa Cruz and to Steve Roi in San Jose. In Solano County, mostly members of ABATE Local 17, happy birthday to Debbie McGinnis, Craig Reynolds and Jay Marshall. Happy birthday to Laury Chimerofsky in Modesto H.O.G. and to Enoch (Nick) Holland in Salem, Oregon. Happy birthday to celebrity riders Ann-Margaret, Jesse James and Jay Leno… Go get your March issue of THUNDER PRESS. Try to find Blue Dog Diaries. Not there? That is because our Editor-in-Chief, Terry Roorda, has retired. Terry and I came into THUNDER PRESS at the same time. I will miss him and his exceptional sense of humor. All the best to you, Terry… If anyone is looking for Pete Gallagher, you won’t find him in Santa Cruz. After all of these years, Pete and family have packed up and moved to Bend, Oregon. Have you ever noticed how many California retirees relocate to Oregon?… Wayne “Wolf Man” has retired as president of the Rough Riders MC, Gateway Chapter. He says, “A new me!” Congratulations to the new president, Lucky. All is well; it should be a fun year… Send all of your good wishes and karma to Glenn Phillips, president of ABATE Local 17. By the time you read this, he will have gone through open heart surgery. Glenn, I just know you will be fine because we will all keep you in our prayers… And now, the “worst of times.” You will read this column in April, but I am writing it in late February/early March. With all of the political unrest, you may think the worst of times relates to the Ides of March. Let me digress. The Ides of March refers to March 15 in the Roman calendar, and when Shakespeare wrote, “Beware the Ides of March,” he was referring to the warning Julius Caesar was given concerning his plotted assassination. Why do I know this? I was curious, so I looked it up. Julius Caesar was assassinated on March 15, 44 BC, and the term “Ides of March” has come to mean a political betrayal. Doesn’t that sound about right for what is going on in the USA today? Enough digression; I am forced to report the “worst of times.” I have been stalling because this hits close to home. The IHR has lost two wonderful, kind spirits. Donna Laaksonen and Jay Cuccarese. Donna Laaksonen was from Eugene, Oregon. She attended all of the IHR gatherings until the past couple of years. She was happy and spirited, and I was still getting to know her when she could no longer travel. Donna was fighting for her life. She was fighting cancer. She was able to hold her own for over two years before that dreadful disease killed her. Donna was a vibrant part of so many lives. Her husband, Dave, has my sincere condolences. She will be missed by many family and friends. Jay Cuccarese from Salem, Oregon, was a charter member of the IHR when it was formed so many years ago in Santa Cruz, and I have known him for over 20 years. In the early years, I tried to copy almost everything that Jay did to his Harley. To this day, my bike is dressed in Jay Cuccarese style. The best do-over is the horn. Jay took the horn off a Springer and mounted it to the side of his bike (a Fat Boy, I believe). When I wanted to copy the idea, Jay had to show me how to retrofit the connection to make it work. Next came the mirrors. Jay changed over to the tear-drop style. So, of course, my bike has had tear-drop mirrors ever since. Jay and his wife, Colleen “Murph,” have been my close friends for many years. In fact, we did a road trip together. Jay was so gentle and kind. I once teased him in this column as being an asshole. To call Jay an asshole was not so different from calling Santa Claus an asshole. But he took it in great spirit. He said that it made his day, and he laughed about it for hours. Too soon. Too soon Jay came down with a cancer in his jaw. This is the same cancer that killed his grandfather and father. It also took Jay. Jay died on February 19. A sad day for all who knew him.