Jon Stanley had only hours to live, but there was one last thing he wanted to do before he died. Someone shared his dream online and by the end of the day, a horde of motorcyclists appeared in Stanley’s front yard.
According to Stanley’s obituary, he “was a man who served and loved his country and family above all.” His career began with the United States Air Force, where he worked as a jet engine mechanic at Grissom Air Reserve Base in Indiana.
After an honorable discharge from the Air Force, Stanley continued working as a mechanic, although his focus shifted from jets to cars. He worked at DC Tire and Auto until his retirement, a line of work he enjoyed “just as much as he enjoyed being in the pool with all his grandkids,” his obituary said.
To that end, family was a centerpiece in Stanley’s life. “He was a loving man, but the most important thing he loved was being with his wife Brenda,” his obituary went on. He was a father of six – four girls and two boys – a grandfather to 13 and a great-grandfather to one.
Stanley also filled his time with a handful of other thrill-seeking hobbies, including visits to amusement parks. He also “loved to ride his Harley,” the obituary went on. He had even bought a new bike just before he found out he was sick.
The veteran had lung and brain cancer, which eventually became terminal. He reached the end of his fight against the disease in June of 2017. Then Stanley headed home, where hospice care kept him comfortable for his final days.
But the 61-year-old had a final request before he succumbed to his disease – he wanted to hear the roaring of a motorcycle’s engine one last time. His family reached out to David Thompson, a local motorcyclist, who could help them make their patriarch’s dream come true.
Thompson went to the Stanley family residence, where he saw the veteran clinging to life. Thompson told Inside Edition, “[Stanley] was there on a bed and on oxygen. He couldn’t speak. He couldn’t communicate.”
With that in mind, Thompson knew what he had to do. He reportedly told Stanley, “I’m going to bring some bikes to you. You hang in there.” He then logged onto Facebook, where he reached out to the motorcycling community in Stanley’s native South Bend and beyond.
Thompson posted in multiple Facebook groups and also phoned nearby biker clubs. He hoped as many people as possible would meet up with him, cruise over to the Stanley house and rev their engines. “I was on a mission,” Thompson said.
By that evening, he had brought together a whopping 200 people on more than 100 motorcycles. They came from all over, participant Pat Schoff Gragg reported. “There were riders from other cities, other districts, other regions, jackets with patches from all sorts of riding clubs – everybody just came from everywhere,” Gragg said.
And, together, the hundreds of bikes made Stanley’s dream come true – and then some. “We rode over, surrounded his house and we revved. Windows were shaking; we knew he felt it,” Gragg added.
The veteran even “raised his arm up” to salute the biker gang, Thompson said. But, with so many motorcycles – and bikers – in their front yard, Stanley’s family made a final request of their own before everyone drove away.
The family asked if the they could bring Stanley outside and sit him inside a sidecar of one of the bikes on their front lawn. Without hesitation, four of the men in attendance carefully picked him up and placed him in the seat.
Then his beloved wife Brenda took her seat on the bike and revved its engine – just as Stanley had wanted. The whole crowd cheered in approval, because, as Gragg said, “It felt good. It felt great.”
And those feel-good vibes even emanated in spite of the discomfort many of the bikers felt temperature-wise. Gragg said, “It was 96 degrees. We were hot. We’re in long pants and boots – you dress for the slide and not the ride, so there were people in leather.”
In spite of the heat, Gragg said the event “wasn’t optional for most” of the bikers, since their sense of community was so strong. “There’s no strangers if you’re on a bike. If somebody needs help, by God, we’re going to do it,” Gragg said.
To that end, the end of the event at Stanley’s house left many of the participants in tears. “Everybody was crying, because we could just feel that we’re helping bring this man peace,” Gragg said. And just a few hours after seeing his last wish come to fruition, Stanley died.
On Saturday, June 24, 2017, Stanley was laid to rest, and, once again, the biker community revved up and showed up in support. Michael Smith, Stanley’s brother-in-law, told WSBT, “These gentleman, from beginning to end, they started this sand as you can see [they] are staying with this all the way to the last ride. All the way to the cemetery.”
His family imagined that it was just the way that Stanley would have wanted to be sent off – and it was the goodbye he deserved. That was because, as Smith said, “If somebody was in need, Jon was there, no matter what.”