Last Ride - Jim Wilson

Rick Butler & Glenn Hall

On June 16th our Texas Chapter 6 lost Jim Wilson, a valued member and an old friend after a 3-month struggle with a heart infection.

Jim was one of our chapter charter members from 1987 and for the longest time, Jim and his wife Sue, were the heart and sole of Texas Chapter 6. Jim was the 1st Chapter Rep and when we first formed the chapter, he was told by the current Texas State Director that we would probably never amount to anything. Jim took this as a personal insult and challenge where he and Sue worked hard to recruit new members and held most of the chapter meetings at their home and business. Within a year Texas Chapter 6 had to 100 members and very publicly, the State Director said he had to eat crow. Jim was very proud of Chapter Six and in late 1988 he was voted in at our 1st Texas Gathering to become the North Texas State Director. Texas was now large enough with 10 active chapters to require 2 state directors.

Jim and Sue traveled to and attended many of the early V-Dazes starting in 1987 through 1990 and we always traveled as a chapter. Probably our most memorable was in 1987 where California Chapter 6 came through Dallas on their way to Pigeon Forge, TN and Jim invited them to a Texas cookout. The next day both chapters rode to Tennessee together.

Then in the Winter of 1990 Jim came down with his first bout with a heart infection called endocarditous, a little bacteria that gets back behind a heart valve then eats away at the valve. After several months of serious antibiotics, the infection was killed but it had taken its toll on Jim’s heart valve. Then about a year later Jim had to have that heart valve replaced and this was the first time we thought we were going to loose him after the operation. But after 17 days he finally pulled through. At this point Jim felt he would not be able to ride again and he sold his bike. Well in the next 12 years Jim bought and sold another 2 bikes. Every time he sold one, he would get well enough to ride and buy another one.

In 1997 or so a bunch of us rode to Ruidosa for the Golden Aspen Rally, where on the second night there Jim suffered an aortic dissection and was CareFlighted to Albuquerque and spent several weeks in intensive care. We really thought we would loose him this time because the odds were really stacked against him. But Jim pulled through again and came home only to ride back to Ruidosa the following year. Jim was starting to get the reputation of a cat with 9 lives when about 4 years later his heart valve started leaking. The first hospital told him there was nothing they could do because the artery was too damaged to perform a repair. Well Jim wasn’t about to give up and sought a second opinion from another specialist. After reviewing his condition, they found a doctor that agreed to perform a patch from the inside, which was a success. At this time felt he would not be able to ride again and sold his second bike. Well in a year or so, he felt good enough that he bought another bike and this time it was not a heavy touring bike but a Kawasaki Nomad. Jim had always wanted a big twin and this bike was the best of all twins being water-cooled, fuel injected and having a drive shaft.

But this Spring Jim came down with another heart infection, where they discovered that same bacteria had come back and damaged another heart valve. After several weeks of getting the infection under control, where they had to remove the spleen, they replaced Jim’s second heart valve. However, this time Jim had other complications that involved his being unable to breathe without a respirator. So after several more weeks, Jim was finally was able to get out of intensive care and into respiratory rehab. But on the second evening, Jim slipped into a comma and we lost him the next morning.

Jim Wilson will always be remembered by his friends for his uncanny wit, that boyish mischief and his ability to tell stories that would stand the test of time. One of his most famous was the “Bear Story” that was told during one of our 1st Texas Gatherings around the campfire. Several years later one of the guys got it on video and every time Jim told it, it got more animated and funnier. But Jim was also guilty of telling other stories that would suck you in big time, like the time he and Sue were at the horse races and struck up a conversation with a lady setting next to them. Jim told the lady they had won the lottery and were thinking of investing their winnings in the horse race business. The woman was so impressed that she introduced them to her friends as the couple that won the lottery. Finally she couldn't stand the suspense and she asked Jim, "How much did you win?" Jim replied, with all seriousness, "Three dollars". And if you were a female friend of Jim’s, you really had to be careful of his innuendoes! If you bought into what he said, all you would get from Jim in return would be a wry smile and a raised eyelid.

Jim was great to ride with, where he very quickly became the chapter historian and would provide history lessons over the CB as we rode. I often accused Jim of just picking this bit of trivia up off the Discovery Channel, which always got a rise out of him. And many of us will always remember the many trips we traveled together all over this great country of ours. He will certainly be missed whenever we ride through west Texas where he often referred to the cotton fields as T-shirt farms. And speaking of T-shirts, Jim was graphic artist who designed all of our Texas Gathering shirts as well as our V-Daze shirts for Harrison. And the design he came up with for our 2003 Texas Gathering was one of his best and in memory of Jim, this basic design will continue to be the theme for all future Texas Gathering shirts.

Jim was a big brother to many of us, but most of all he was our friend where we all stood together for each other many times. And for this, we will all be forever grateful. The memories of our good times together will never be forgotten. We all wish Jim the best in his next journey.