A new feature, Depth of Tread, is an opportunity to recognize, to reader-nominate someone you know. Yes, you! Readers email Susan with contact information for the nominee and from those nominations we’ll feature a subject in a future issue of THUNDER PRESS. Imagine a person who lives with intention, admirable for some reason. It can be anyone, we ask only that they ride. With your help we can let their story inspire us all.
Sixty-three-year-old Diane Gouin is better known as Patch Lady Diane. It’s her handle and email (firstname.lastname@example.org) too. In certain circles, and we’re talking some burly, whiskered circles, she’s also “Mom.” “Mom, can you sew this on for me? Mom, can you make a patch that looks like this (holding a drawing)?” The seven sewing machines she has at home, in a double-wide within a Smokey Point, Washington, senior (55+) mobile home park would suggest the answer is “yes.” Yes, she can.
Raised on a dairy farm near Arlington, Washington, Diane was a “dairy girl” from the point she could help out. Living off the land means money can be lean and necessity sometimes steers a course. Diane learned how to sew her own clothes early on because that meant her family’s budget would go farther in making ends meet.
In 1965 the family sold the dairy farm and moved to Monroe, a little over 25 miles away from her childhood home. It was also in 1965 that Diane lost her grandmother to breast cancer, sparking in the granddaughter an interest in nursing. She’d continue that interest with college classes in Cheney, Washington.
In Monroe, Diane’s mother worked in banking until she bought “City Floral on First and C-Street” in Snohomish. Diane’s father became a corrections officer at the Monroe Reformatory (now called Monroe Correctional Complex). The family kept a few Guernsey cows in the rural area. Diane explained, “I was showing cows with 4H and hand milking all the way through high school.”
Diane was taught how to ride a motorcycle by the pastor at the Church of the Nazarene in Monroe, Washington, while she was still a teen. She graduated in 1972, then in ’76, while taking nursing classes at EWSU (now EWU), she began having difficulty with balance. More frightening, she lost her vision in one eye (temporarily). She explained, “I just kept tripping and falling.” When the diagnosis arrived it was secondary progressive Multiple Sclerosis. She remembers, “I denied it a long time,” then the stages of grief clicked off as she wrapped her young mind around what MS would mean for her life ahead.
No longer able to manage the distance to Cheney for school, she went to Edmonds Community College to become a certified nursing assistant, that campus nearer home and family. Working for several area doctors to pay for schooling, it didn’t take long to realize she was running on empty. Stamina was, and would remain, difficult.
As if to defy the 1976 diagnosis Diane bought a $400 Renault R-8 stock car to race at the Evergreen State Fairground track in Monroe, “on the 1/8th mile circle track.” The 1108 4-cylinder satisfied her need for speed, plus it provided opportunity for another hobby, wrenching, something she learned in an effort to impress her older brothers John and Jerry.
In ’82 Diane was working as a cashier at a Duvall grocer (IGA) and connected with a local, Dick. They married two years later. In 1993, due to a genetic disorder, their son James died. He was just a toddler. Diane carries his picture with her always.
Given the compromises MS has visited, Diane has had to give up both riding and driving, explaining, “I can’t figure out what to do with my feet.” But Dick, “my director of transportation,” delivers her to events and fundraisers, bringing her gear and samples along. She takes custom orders and from inventory sews patches while customers watch her machine whir. If an event is close to home and weather welcoming, a 1200 Sportster with sidecar allows Diane a seat “in the tub” with needed gear in the boot.
She doesn’t complain, though discomfort is a constant companion of her MS. Upon rising each morning her goal is “to do something positive, because that makes me feel better.” Her patches are an exercise of free speech, a few admittedly naughty. “It’s fun watching people’s reaction.” She makes her own flags and designs, sewing for almost every organization you’d recognize, mailing worldwide and endeavoring always to lift the spirits of those she encounters. “I just try and make people smile. Doing that makes me feel better”.
If you know of a rider who impresses you, send an email to Susan at email@example.com and she’ll take it from there. Who do you know who demonstrates Depth of Tread?