|Subject:||My friend, Carl Vandre||Date:||Sat Feb 16 02:00:10 2008|
After reading all the great things people all over the world have said about Carl, I felt compelled to add my comments too.
I first met Carl soon after he showed his 1925 Henderson in Denver for the first time. My good friend Ed Gerlits had met him there at the show and told me what a great guy he was and said we needed to get him to join the Rocky Mountain Chapter. A few days later, Ed and I visited Carl at his shop. Carl soon joined the club and remained an active member for the rest of his life. I think that was about 1983. That casual meeting with Carl changed the course of my life in more ways than I could have ever imagined! From that day grew a mutual respect and friendship that I will cherish for the rest of my life.
Carlís shop was not far from my home, so I was able to see him quite often. Iím not sure who enjoyed the visits more, Carl or me! He was always so glad to see me come in the door and greeted me with a hearty hand shake and a big hello. It didnít take me long to figure out that Carl knew how to fix anything, so I always brought something along that needed some help. It didnít matter what he was doing, or how busy he was, he would always take time to help me out with my project. He wouldnít necessarily fix it for me, but he would tell or show me how to fix it myself and get me started.
Over the years, Carl taught me so many things. From him I learned the basics of magneto and generator operation, which was old hat for him, how to use the CNC milling machine, and greatly improved my lathe operating skills. He was a master at coming up with different ways to repair old broken parts. From Carl I learned that through patience and perseverance, virtually anything could be fixed no matter how badly damaged. If it couldnít be fixed, well, ďfigure out how to make a new oneĒ he would say.
I always enjoyed seeing what he was doing with the various Henderson projects. Iím always interested in old motorcycle things, but not owning a Henderson, I didnít share the passion that Carl did for the fourís. When I would visit him, he was always eager to show me what he was doing. That in itself was a great learning experience, just trying to keep up with what he was doing.
In the spring of 1990 as I was nearing completion of my 24 Chief, I felt I needed to start looking for another project. I mentioned this to Carl and he said he had a basket case Excelsior that he didnít want. It seems that Carl had helped out one of the local guys who was in trouble and lent him some money to get by. As collateral, he left a truck load of old motorcycle parts with Carl. He left town and never showed up again, so Carl eventually sold off the parts to recover his money. We drug out the X and spread it out in the parking lot. There wasnít much there, but what was there was in pretty good shape. Carl explained that it was a series 20 Excelsior and shared many parts common to the Henderson. (This was all greek to me at the time, I knew nothing of the brand X) He would like to restore it, but it was only about 25% complete and missing all the hard stuff to find. The only parts he could find were the footboard and handlebar rubber grips. He just wasnít that good at scrounging up all the little stuff, so he thought I should have it. We agreed on a price and loaded it in the truck. He insisted on taking a picture of me next to the pile of the new project. That got me started on the Excelsior chase, now I have 3 brand X machines. It was always a treat to go to the swap meet in Davenport and I developed a reputation for scrounging deep in the bottom of boxes looking for the little X parts scattered here and there. I shared Carlís swap meet space and every time I came back, Carl was anxious to see what I had found. He was always so amazed that I could find all that little stuff. It was like watching a kid at Christmas when he looked in my little parts bag, he would be so excited and marvel over every piece! Today, that machine is probably 99% complete, patiently awaiting my time to restore it. I look forward to the day when I can work on it and I will think of Carl all through the restoration, wondering how Carl would have done this or that, or how excited he would get when I came back with a bag of parts from the swap meet.
Carl also taught me many things about life too. Growing up without a father, I considered Carl to be as close to a father as I could get. Many times I would sit there in Carlís shop and talk about work, family or life in general. It was from those conversations that feel I have become a better person, a better husband, a better father and friend. Carl never preached or really told you what to do, but by talking with him, he was able to pass on the lesson in a very subtle way. I always walked away knowing what was the right thing to do.
Carl set the standard by which I judge myself today. I often ask, what would Carl say, or do, or think. He is the example of a true friend, never a bad thing to say about anyone, always eager to see you, talk with you or help you. Honest, always, in everything he did. Forgiving, he never held a grudge or showed anger toward anyone. I honestly think that Carl never had an enemy, anywhere.
Carl also loved animals and took great delight in teaching his pets tricks. He is the only guy I know (besides myself!) that walks his cat on a leash!
I was fortunate to visit with Carl at his home about a week before he passed away. His mind was still pretty sharp, but he had some pain and it was very difficult for him to walk and he needed the assistance of the walker and a hand or two. When it was time for me to leave, Carl being the gentleman that he was, insisted on walking me to the door to say goodbye.
One other thing to think about, look closely at the picture of Carlís V-6 at his funeral service, posted by Jeff Alleman. It says a lot about a guy who actually wears out the seat on his Henderson! That seat carried Carl on numerous road runs and looked pretty tattered that day. He loved to ride as well as work on the Hendersons!
Thank you Carl, for all you have done for me over the years, and what your memories and lessons will continue to do for me in the future! Iíll miss our times together.