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Make that final ride a Harley

Two motorcycle enthusiasts start a hearse service, for those who wouldn't want a staid exit.

June 29, 2008|Tyrone Richardson | Allentown Morning Call

ALLENTOWN, PA. — Years ago, David Heintzelman carried his deceased friend's ashes to a cemetery on a Harley-Davidson motorcycle.

The friend's family told Heintzelman, funeral director of Heintzelman Funeral Home in Hellertown, Pa., that it was good to know their loved one had ridden on a Harley for one final time.

An idea was born.

In 2005, Heintzelman and his brother, Robert, both Harley enthusiasts, started Forever Remembered Hearse Co. The motorcycle hearse company featured a three-wheel Harley towing a converted cargo trailer.

"We wanted to offer something different," Heintzelman said. "The last thing a motorcycle enthusiast wants is to ride in the back of a Cadillac or Lincoln."

Prompted by what he calls a success, Heintzelman teamed with a design company in South Carolina and added a second motorcycle hearse to his fleet.

Heintzelman's company is one of a growing list of specialized hearse companies around the nation that offer "final ride" alternatives to the traditional sedan.

Aaron A. Schisler, supervisor of funeral services at Schisler Funeral Home in Nazareth, Pa., said he's made arrangements for nontraditional hearses with tractors, pickup trucks and motorcycles.

Matthew S. Stephens, director of Stephens Funeral Home in Allentown, said it used to be that the only option available in funeral planning was whether to choose a wood or metal casket.

Now, the entire process is a la carte.

"We are going from the cookie-cutter service of the past and are now trying to make them more of a unique experience," Stephens said. "They are trying to memorialize their loved ones with the way they lived their life."

For those who rode motorcycles, they honor them with a ride in style, Heintzelman said.

"Every time this service is used it does reflect their lifestyle and brings back great memories. I have never had a family say that the person wouldn't have wanted it," he said. "We have used the motorcycle coach also for families that have just seen it and never been on it. They want it for its uniqueness."

Heintzelman said there is one drawback to the motorcycle hearse funeral procession.

"We're usually going at like 20 to 30 mph," he said. "The [deceased] person would have usually been going a lot faster than that."

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