Lonnie Culp, 56, West Mineral, spent a lot of his life on a motorcycle, and it just made sense that he'd appreciate one last ride after his death on Sept. 27.
So, on Sept. 30, he rode in style from Brenner Mortuary in Pittsburg to the Cherokee City Cemetery in a custom-built motorcycle hearse driven by Don Guffey of Clear Creek Coach, El Dorado Springs, Mo.
The arrangements were made pretty much at the last minute.
"Lonnie was diagnosed with cancer just two months ago and we really didn't have time to make plans," said his wife, Jeanie Culp.
There was talk of somehow incorporating Culp's own motorcycle into the funeral procession, but the family finally thought they might have to go with a traditional hearse.
"We turned it over to some friends, and they put it together in one day," Mrs. Culp said.
Ted Roe of the Cherokee American Legion Post No. 35 said that everyone knew how much Culp, who served with the U.S. Marines during Vietnam, loved motorcycles. He was a charter member of the post's American Legion Riders.
"One of our members looked on the Internet and found Clear Creek Coach," Roe said. "It's owned by Don and Brenda Guffey, and they bent over backwards to make it happen, all on short notice. It was to our advantage that they're relatively close."
Mrs. Culp said that Guffey came inside the funeral home and signed the guest book.
"He said that he usually waits outside the funeral home, but I told him he deserved to come inside, so he did and sat through the funeral," she said.
Guffey presented the widow with a spur from his boot.
"He said it was in memory of Lonnie's last ride," Mrs. Culp said. "It was so moving. When he gave me that spur there were more men than I could count with tears in their eyes."
It was a deeply symbolic gesture, according to Roe.
"What a lot of people don't understand is that those who wear one spur do it in honor of fallen brothers," he said.
Roe is glad that all the arrangements worked out.
"We just want to thank the family," he said. "I worked with a niece who rides with us, and she did a lot of coordinating with Jeanie. We got to do something that made a memory for somebody."
This is also important to Don and Brenda Guffey, and she was pleased to hear how much the family appreciated her husband and his motorcycle hearse.
"We've had the hearse for about five years now, and about 30 percent of those who use our service are veterans," Mrs. Guffey said. "It means so much to the families to have something unique."
Page 2 of 2 - Lonnie Culp deserved something special because he was something special, according to Roe.
"When there was a benefit ride, Lonnie was there to help whether he knew the people or not," Roe said. "We didn't do anything for Lonnie that he wouldn't have done for us 10-fold."