By Randy Twells; Photos-RT & Courtesy Kennedy Family*
My acquaintance with Cathie Kennedy began upon getting to know her and her husband Bill, in association with the motorcycle community in Southern California around the year 2000. The first time we really rode together on a road trip was in a large group of their friends and associates heading across from Oceanside, California to Las Vegas Bikefest in Fall 2004. I remember being grateful for Cathie’s presence as the only other woman in the group riding her own bike. A seasoned rider, she had many miles under her belt. She and Bill had each ridden their own bikes down to Ensenada for a big group weekend ride in year 2000, of which we have footage – and there she is even then, strong and capable, riding her own motorcycle and the only solo woman rider in the pack of many bikes. And at the same time, when the inclination struck, she would just as easily hop on the back of Bill’s bike too, to go for a spin. So I sat down with Bill Kennedy recently, to find out a little more about this special lady, from the man who knew her best.
Cathie & Bill married and have been together over 44 years now. In 1971 Bill had returned to Carlsbad from his military service, and he and his brothers Pat & Mike were starting up their shop, Kennedy’s Custom Cycles. One day, he walked into Harry’s Café and there she was, a ‘tasteful brunette’ as he described her, sitting there having a cup of coffee. So he struck up a conversation. Within minutes this “man about town” knew, this lady was THE one. It took him 6 months to finally kiss her on the cheek — he didn’t want to mess this up! They married about another 6 months later, had a daughter named Heather and in time, three grandchildren. Cathie would ride behind Bill on his long raked out chopper, in those early days. But sure enough about 10 years later, Bill says she woke up one day and said, “I want to ride.” And that was it. So Bill started her out in the parking lot showing her what to do, and she took to it like a fish to water. She had two bikes, a Honda 750 that Bill hung so much H-D stuff on that they nicknamed it her Honda-Davidson, and she also rode a Dyna.
As you might imagine a woman who wants to ride her own motorcycle does many other things on her own as well. Cathie had been a legal secretary for a time, was a licensed Notary Public and had her own business, Postmark.com, a postal & shipping store in Vista, California.
Bill reminisced that Cathie had many talents– she was a very good singer, but would never perform on stage for a crowd (We missed out there…) Cathie also actively pursued playing piano, developing her skill, and was a published poet. And although she herself was not comfortable on stage, she would be there with Bill at many events & listen to all the speakers including Bill; he says her one main piece of advice to him when all was said & done was, “Be humble.” I think he listened…
Having 4 older brothers, as a kid Cathie often competed with them for dad’s attention; she learned fast how to keep up. Perhaps partly due to that, Cathie was a good swimmer & scuba diver, and loved surfing. She took up martial arts and also was a dead shot with a Glock 9mm at the shooting range.
As if that’s not enough to pack into one person’s life, Cathie also went to Parker Truck Driving School to learn how to drive a semi, yes an 18-wheeler. She was 1st in her class, and soon was driving a rig loaded with cargo from San Diego to El Centro and then reloaded with produce, driving it back to San Diego. Bill allowed that he then ‘had to’ go get his own big rig license so he could keep up with her.
Another memory: Once Bill & Cathie were on a trip to Mexico around year 2000 or so with the Solo Angeles and they went to a bullfight. Bill got in the arena and it appeared to Cathie that he was getting in a little deep with the bull and his tai chi wasn’t quite doing the job, so Cathie, along with the Solo Angeles, jumped over the wall to rescue Bill! I’m sure the bull rued the day he met her…. No wonder then, that was the day she decided it was time to ride her own bike!
As the years went by health issues arose that made it difficult for Cathie to continue riding her own. But for a while, she could ride behind Bill, and still enjoy the road. Cathie battled diabetes and then cancer for several years– and as always with Bill at her side. Cathie had always been supportive of good causes, and while dealing with her own health concerns she now even more so focused her attention on helping others by supporting the American Diabetes Association with bake sales at the various events held at Kennedy’s Custom Cycles. Diabetic-friendly baked goods and popcorn were regular featured items, along with her hand knitted & crocheted items.
The Blessing of the Bikes/Downed Biker Rally held at Kennedy’s each year, which also incorporates a Renewal of Vows, was a key event for Cathie & Bill to participate in and reaffirm their love and commitment to one another. So it was that this past July 20th Cathie was determined to make it to the event and participate in the Renewal of Vows once more, with Bill. It was Cathie’s day, with a flower bouquet in her favorite purple hues and her beautiful smile for all. Those in attendance were so happy to see her, and so thankful to share one more special day with her and Bill, as they celebrated their life together.
Through the years, Cathie & Bill were devoted to each other, their family & the values that made them true friends to each other and to those who knew them. Their being together, dedicated to each other for over 44 years is a shining gem. With all the things Cathie accomplished in life, whether she rode her own bike, whether it had a Honda winged logo or a Harley eagle winged logo, whether she rode on the back with Bill, or even arriving in a truck and getting in a wheelchair, she was out there participating in the motorcycle community, and sharing her generous spirit with all.
Sadly, Cathie lost her battle with Stage 4 cancer Saturday, July 26th and left us all behind, as she rides now on other wings, in safe hands. Immediately after she passed, the next thing Bill did was say a prayer thanking God for every minute of the 44+ years that he had gotten to spend with her. Bill says, she was his light; when she was gone, he felt he was stumbling around in the dark.
So it was with great sadness that as word of her passing emerged, messages were passed along that Cathie had finished her road trip. Now on the Forever Highway, Cathie Kennedy will always be the shining light, remembered as such an accomplished person in her own right, a strong yet faithful and loving wife, mother and friend that she was. And damn good rider and road companion, the personification of a Woman Who Rode.
Ride On in Peace, Great Lady
January 5, 1952 – July 26, 2014
Last Rally July 20, 2014
*Video Source-Flagship Productions; Digital Transfer & Stills Processing by Chuck Nunley/Triad Video