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Funeral directors' new company offers custom-built motorcycle



COURTESY: LAST RIDE LLC - Ron and Deborah Threadgill pose along with daughter Kiera (right) with their custom-built three-wheel Harley-Davidson Road King motorcycle and carriage.The short story is that Ron and Deborah Threadgill are now proud owners of a motorcycle hearse — yes, a motorcycle hearse, a custom-built three-wheel Harley-Davidson with a carriage and the only one of its kind in the Pacific Northwest.

The long story is that their son has autism, and the Threadgills wanted to improve his transportation options other than the bus and MAX system and bicycle. They weren’t keen on him driving an automobile, so they provided him with a scooter. “I bought a scooter at the same time he did, so I could do test-drives with him so I knew where he was going,” Ron says.

Well, Ron’s friends saw him riding a scooter and told him that he would probably have the urge to upgrade at some point. “I said, ‘No, no,’ but within 30 days I was looking for a Harley,” he says. Deborah said absolutely not, but ...

“She got a sparkle in her eye, and she says unless it’s business-related,” he says. “And I said, ‘Sold!’”

So, now the Threadgills, who celebrate 10 years in the funeral business with Threadgill’s Memorial Services early next year, can provide a cool mode of transporation for a deceased loved one via their new company, Last Ride LLC.

“We’re mavericks — innovative, creative, and we advocate for family-directed home funerals,” Deborah says. “We’re on the cutting-edge anyway, and as we disclosed to people what we thought about doing, they said, ‘Yes, this is you.’ We’re excited.”

The Threadgills say they haven’t booked any memorial rides yet with the Harley (the “trike”) and the carriage (the “hearse”). It’s completely ready to go, they say, and they’ll promote Last Ride at motorcycle and car shows and other gatherings of the living. And it’s just a matter of time, isn’t it? One would think motorcycle aficionados who cruise to the great highway in the sky would want the celebratory ride, if they had their choice, right?

It’s for both caskets and urns.

“We’ve had curious people so far,” Ron says. “It does not fit in the realm of their deceased loved ones. They all just gaggle and google.

“But, when they see it, we’ve had several people say that they want this to be their departure vehicle. But right now they’re still healthy and well.”

COURTESY: LAST RIDE LLC - Ron and Deborah Threadgill have expanded their memorial services company for the born-to-be-wild set with Last Ride LLC.After getting the go-ahead from his wife, Ron researched motorcycle hearses on the internet. He found unique motorcycles that have trailers that serve the funeral industry. He didn’t like the look of them.

He came across the website for Tombstone Trike & Hearse in Tombstone, Arizona, and “when I saw the fifth-wheel attachments, I immediately knew ...”

Ron adds: “Having pulled trailers all my life, I knew this would not shimmy with a load in it. It had to be safe. We were sold, Deborah was sold.”

The financing was approved. He ordered the bike and carriage and went to Tombstone to pick it up. He didn’t ride it home, but towed it in a cargo trailer.

The licensing of the motorcycle and carriage took about a month, as the Department of Motor Vehicles had trouble licensing a commercial motorcycle and a carriage registered as a trailer that would carry a coffin or urn. The Threadgills also had to form a separate company, called Last Ride LLC, to differentiate the business from Threadgill’s Memorial Services.

It took another 30 days to nail down insurance.

“It was quite the process — two months to get the logistics worked out. We could hardly sleep, we were so excited,” Ron says. In addition to its own business, “we can let other funeral homes use it as well.”

Says Deborah: “We want to partner up. We know we’re going to get a lot of recognition (because of it), but we want to help other groups such as disabled veterans” with a marketing effort.

The Threadgills says their research found there isn’t another Harley-Davidson/carriage model in the Pacific Northwest; the closest fifth-wheel attachment kind is in Fresno, Calif., with some also in Illinois and on the East Coast.

The Harley-Davidson Road King motorcycle and carriage weigh 1,800 pounds, and the carriage has a carrying capacity of 600 pounds. The carriage was inspired by President Abraham Lincoln’s Victorian-style horse-drawn funeral coach; the maker at Tombstone has been commissioned to build a replica Lincoln carriage for the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Illinois.

“It has a special transmission with reverse,” Ron says. “It’ll pull the necessary weight.

“It’s so much fun to ride.”

The Threadgills steered away from talking specifics, but suffice to say the whole endeavor cost six figures.

Threadgill’s Memorial Services and Last Ride LLC, based in Beaverton, service customers all over the Portland-metro area. They operate out of their home and meet families in their homes, and they have a business building in Northeast Portland by Providence Portland Medical Center.

Last Ride adds to the way that the Threadgills can customize funerals.

“A lot of people that we cross paths with, they say, ‘There goes the Threadgills, putting fun in funeral again,’” Ron says. “It’s giving people a reason to discuss funerals, cremations and burials. It takes them out of their comfortable zone of conversation. And it’s creating a memory that, five years from now when they reflect on a funeral, they can say, ‘Yes, but wasn’t that motorcycle hearse awesome?’

“I call that a bridge into future memories ... It’s a whole new community with the bikers.”

Thanks to his wife, Ron Threadgill got his motorcycle.

He likes to say that, “For my wife’s birthday I bought myself a Harley. That’s the day we ordered it, her birthday, Aug. 4.”

For info on Last Ride LLC, including rates: www.yourlastride.com.

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