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Cancer claims my riding partner


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Cancer has claimed the life of my friend Rusty Hermsen. His name will be recognized by many people in the Green Bay, Wisconsin area due to his long career as a high school band teacher, but it was the summers off aspect that brought him into my life. In the 1970’s Rusty owned a small Bultaco (Hodaka) motorcycle dealership a couple blocks from my parent’s home. Our friendship started with me as a minibike riding kid, peering through the front window at the real dirtbikes.


Soon, I was hanging around in the back shop area being exposed to a whole new world of experiences. I learned a lot about life from Rusty. From how to return a tool to it's exact place in the tool chest, dating, and how to be true to myself in how I interact with others. One of the most appealing qualities Rusty had, was his youthful enthusiasm for life. He was an adult that was out to have some big fun in life, and he took this poor kid off the block along for the ride.


Rusty raced motorcycles, and at this time of his life it was flat track on a 250cc Bultaco Astro with a pearl white paint job. I can still smell the bean oil burning as the flag dropped at the start of a race. We rode dirt bikes in the county forest, played on the Sherpa trials bikes, and when the Wisconsin winter set in, we studded up tires to ride on the ice.


As I progressed from on/offroad bikes to street bikes, Rusty decided that he too needed a street bike, and I had myself a riding partner. Rusty belonged to the motorcycle club that runs what is now called the Viking Cycle Park in Denmark, Wisconsin. I joined up, and learned what it takes to put on an AMA sanctioned motocross race. I met people through Rusty, and gained another life-long motorcycling friend.


We drifted apart as marriage, careers, and different interests came into play, meeting only occasionally by chance around the city or a drop in to his home. When my wife was dying, I called to tell him, and we decided to get together more often. After buying the BMW R1100 RT, I brought it over and sent him out on it for a ride. That got him back into motorcycling, and we would go for rides when I could convince him to drop what he was doing.


Rest in Peace Rusty, I'm going to miss you.


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I'm so sorry but what precious times you had together.


I suspect he'll be along in spirit on each ride you take for the rest of your life.


Thanks for the glimpse into your friendship.

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What a sad/wonderful post.


Life long friendships are extremely rare and valuable.


New friends know where we are going, old friends know where we have been.


Thanks for sharing with us. As long as we have memories, they are never truly gone.


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One of my very good friends died while riding about 3 years ago. His two best childhood friends each took a film can of his ashes when they went to spread them from a familiar mountain peak and they keep those ashes under the seats of their bikes so Dave is always with them.


Until I met him, I'd have thought that frivolously maudlin, now I understand it completely.

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What a great tribute to your friend. It sounds as if he was an honorable well loved man.


My condolences,



What Steve said. Many of us have lost a few riding buddies in the last few years and can all too well relate with what you're going through. We all share your grief and wish you peace.
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