Ohio man, Billie Standley, rode into the sunset in style and was buried with his treasured Harley Davidson. The native of the small village of Mechanicsburg passed away this week at the age of 82. As his family honored his final wish, Standley’s funeral brought cyclists from across the country to say goodbye and pay tribute in a most unusual way. After years of planning his own funeral and burial, Standley was laid to rest astride his beloved bike.
A man who enjoyed life to the fullest, Standley was known for his unique sense of adventure and quirky ideas. He lived life on the edge and took every advantage to see the world and experience life. A former rodeo rider, Standley was also a family man and dedicated worker. He embraced the best of all worlds with his rugged spirit and heart of gold. He liked to stand out in the crowd and the crowd of mourners saw first hand how he stood out, even in death.
Growing up in rural Ohio, Standley pursued adventure while holding down a long time trucking job with Dallas-Mavis and raising four children with his wife. He was a member of the Eagles and Teamsters Union. The great outdoors beckoned as Standley loved fishing, water skiing and horse back riding. His first love, next to family and friends, however, was his 1967 Harley Davidson Electra Glide. The bike was a huge part of his life and has now become a fixture in his death.
Standley came up with his own funeral plans close to two decades ago and everyone who loved the man knew about his crazy idea. It was more than just a fly by night dream, it became a focus and reality. The Ohio man wanted to be buried with his treasured bike. He was serious and did not let go of the possibility. He started making his own final arrangements by purchasing three plots in a nearby cemetery.
His children got on board and supported the plan. His sons took to building a plexiglass casket that would be large enough for the motorcycle and their father. All the details were carefully considered as the men completed the reinforced structure that would someday enclose Standley. The casket was kept in the family garage and quickly became a showcase and conversation piece. The Ohio man was quite proud of the masterpiece and it gave him peace of mind for his future grand exit.
Standley developed Alzheimer’s disease, but did not forget about his final dream. After battling lung cancer this past year, he passed away on January 26, 2014 and his casket was passed on to the funeral home.
Skillman, McDonald and Vernon funeral home in Mechanicsburg were ready and able to assure the details of securing Standley onto his bike and into the see through casket.
At Standley’s request, the funeral was held outside, despite the bitter cold, so the public and many cyclists could view his last ride. Dressed in full biker gear and surrounded by his trophies from his rodeo days, Standley was on display on his bike and enclosed in the special casket. The extra effort from five funeral directors required braces and straps to get Standley prepared for his last ride.
It was time for the final goodbye as all preparations were secure. As the village looked on with awe, the town motto, “Where Unity Means Progress”, was evident. This was certainly a moment of progress in the town of 2,000 and one everyone would remember. As the unique casket was towed four miles to the cemetery, Standley was in full display atop his beloved Harley. The Ohio man lived his dream and died in peace as he was laid to rest with his treasured friend.
By: Roanne FitzGibbon