Jessica Garcia / Nevada Appeal via AP
Sunday, April 17, 2022 | 8:22 p.m.
DAYTON — A 102-year-old northern Nevada woman known locally as “Motorcycle Mama” celebrated her latest birthday on the back of a Harley Davison.
Velma Thornburgh’s daughter organized the trek in Dayton on U.S. Highway 50 east of Carson City last weekend with a local motorcycle club.
“I just can’t believe it,” Thornburg said as members of the Templar Crusaders Motorcycle Club Northern Nevada gathered last weekend to celebrate her 102nd birthday.
“Thank you, thank you, thank you,” she told them.
Born April 10, 1920, Thornburgh of Dayton used to ride with her father when she was young, said her daughter, Sandra Bell, 77.
She rode horses and bikes well into her 80s and traditionally made an annual trip on her birthday until it was put on hold in recent years due to COVID-19, Bell told the Nevada Appeal.
She said her mother’s wish was to go on one more motorcycle ride this year.
On Sunday, Thornburgh slipped on a Harley-Davidson jacket the club gave her. Others gently fitted on her helmet just right and carefully lifted her onto the seat behind Templar Crusaders President Bruce Harmon.
Bell, who joined them on the trip, ordered a large birthday cake with a photo showing Thornburgh on a bike from her earlier riding days to commemorate the special “102.”
Bell had reached out to Harmon and the club through a church contact and Harmon’s niece, Brieanna Smith, to ask if they’d grant Thornburgh’s wish.
The club is made up of law enforcement and first responder veterans who regularly serve )seniors through annual events, including collecting funds and gifts through an annual holiday poker run.
“Not all bikers are bad guys,” Harmon said.
It was the first time the group had done a birthday ride, he said, but they were anxious to help for someone like Thornburgh.
“This just felt like something we should do,” Harmon said. “It was quite an honor and all of my friends, they wouldn’t have passed it up.”
“Most of the guys that run around town that ride these big beasts are great big teddy bears,” he said. “We’re here to help the community and this is just one thing that we love to do.”
Bell said she was grateful for the club’s generous gesture to her mother.
“I almost cried when I got on the motorcycle, I was trying so hard not to cry,” Bell said.
“That really does mean a lot to me. I know it did to Mom. That’s what I told Bruce. How do you say thank you? There’s no words. She couldn’t wait. She was the queen of the day,” she said.
As for the ride itself, Thornburgh made it as far as she could on U.S. 50, making it down to nearly the post office before needing to turn back.
“I’ll be back next year to give you another ride,” Harmon told her when they returned.
Friends and club members then sang “Happy Birthday” as Thornburgh beamed.
“She’s a remarkable person,” Bell said. “She’s got more stamina than I do, and I can’t keep up with her. … She’s had a birthday beyond anything she’s ever dreamed.”