By Lee Jones Ljones@civitasmedia.com
January 31, 2014
MECHANICSBURG — Billie Standley, 82, was a larger-than-life man who spent years planning his signature burial, which went off without a hitch Friday.
He was buried while sitting on his motorcycle, a Harley-Davidson Electra Glide.
Standley, who died of Stage 4 lung cancer, was a passionate motorcyclist who belonged to the American Thunder motorcycle club.
Along with the bike, Standley’s body was surrounded by medals and trophies he won in his years of rodeo riding and biking.
He had arranged for a vandal-proof plot, according to the family. A concrete vault already had been placed in the burial site and the box would be lowered into the vault, the vault lid locked and then covered with soil.
On Friday, the grieving gathered around a green framed box with Plexiglas sides housing the dearly departed. Standley was dressed in a full leather getup with a helmet emblazoned with his name.
Many in attendance were happy to see Standley’s wish granted.
“He always wanted to be buried this way,” said Pete Standley, son of Billie. “This is what he got. We built the casket six years ago.”
Standley’s long-time friend Robert Paul said he bought an antique car with Standley in December and was shocked he died so quickly thereafter.
“He was a good guy,” Paul said. “I used to go up and talk to him all the time.”
Dave Vernon said Standley approached him about his burial wishes 18 years ago.
“I told him I’d do my best,” he said. “This was definitely an important part of his life.”
Standley told his family his motorcycle helped him retain his sense of adventure after he settled down to raise four children, which was quite a compromise for the man who made his start at 13 as ranch hand and rodeo rider.
He started the project himself, buying three extra burial plots next to his wife, Lorna. His sons, Pete and Roy, fashioned the casket out of Plexiglas, reinforcing the bottom with wood and steel rods to handle the extra weight.
Enlisting the help of Vernon Funeral Homes, Standley ensured his funeral would be held outside, so all his biker friends could watch his final ride.
His family agreed the processional to the cemetery might be a little bizarre, even shocking.
“He’d done right by us all these years, and at least we could see he goes out the way he wanted to,” Pete Standley said.
Lee Jones may be reached at (937) 652-1331 Ext. 223 or via Twitter @UDCJones. The Associated Press contributed to this story.