It was a little over two years ago when a couple of local bikers decided the weather was just too fine to waste.
So, on June 12, 2010, Chuck Bailey and his good friend and son-in-law, Rob (Skeeter) Barber, decided to dust off their machines and enjoy the country roads. Both men were experienced and responsible bikers. They couldn't have dreamed, as they set out, that it would be their last ride together.
The patch of gravel that sent Chuck's bike spinning off the road seemed almost insignificant. But it was enough to cause the freakish accident that took his life.
Rob (Skeeter) Barber, left, presents a plaque acknowledging 2012 BOCES graduate Jake Perry’s outstanding work as an automotive student. He then gave him a selection of mechanic’s tools and a tool box. The prize was given in memory of Barber’s friend and father-in-law, Chuck Bailey.
Chuck Bailey, pictured above, was killed in a biking accident in June 2010. His death spurred an annual fundraiser that has resulted in a yearly award to an outstanding automotive student.
Last year, some of Chuck's friends and fellow bikers decided they wanted to do something in his memory. After discussing their ideas with Chuck's widow, Denise; his daughter, Tonia; his grandkids, Alicia and Nicholas; and his parents, Dick and Mary Bailey, they settled on a project everyone agreed he would have loved - a bike ride. So Skeeter went ahead and organized a memorial run in Chuck's honor.
That first ride was planned with stops along the way for 50/50 drawings. Many individuals hearing of the event, made contributions of their own. Afterward, Chuck's buddies unexpectedly found themselves holding a nice little pot of money and facing the question of how Chuck would've wanted it spent. Turning to his family again, they all thought long and hard about the kind of man he'd been.
First and foremost, Chuck had liked "helping out." One recipient of his good deeds happened to be a lady of slightly advanced years who'd somehow locked herself out of her car with the motor running in her own steep driveway. Chuck went to the rescue.
On another day, a lonely, down-on-his-luck kid might wander into the garage, badly needing someone to talk to. Chuck was that someone. His laughing brown eyes and devilish grin made him an instant friend, no matter who the person or what the problem. He could also dish out a healthy dose of good-natured teasing, should the occasion arise.
Still, Chuck was serious about his work. He had a way with cantankerous cars and unenergetic engines, and took justifiable pride in his ability to fix them. During his years as a mechanic at Illig's Chevrolet in Cattaraugus, he'd advanced himself to become manager of the repair shop.
Thinking about all this, his family and friends decided the money collected from the ride should be used to buy a top-of-the-line auto mechanic's tool kit, along with a heavy-duty tool box.
These would be awarded to a deserving local graduate from the BOCES automotive department. This, they thought, would embody the strongest facets of Chuck's personality. He'd approve, they felt.
But the decision was made too late for 2011. Instead, the presentation became the focus of this year's second annual Chuck Bailey Memorial Bike Ride.
Bailey's friend, Rob Barber, made the presentation to Jacob Perry of East Otto, 2012 Cattaraugus-Little Valley graduate. He also congratulated Perry for the hard work that earned his teacher's wholehearted recommendation.
The Bailey family and their son's biking friends plan to make both the memorial ride and the automotive award into an annual tradition. They hope it will encourage future automotive students to strive for excellence, just as their son, Chuck, and this year's recipient did.
Ninety people participated in the 2012 Chuck Bailey Memorial Ride, including 35 bikes and 55 low-riders. Using the Cattaraugus Rod and Gun clubhouse as their rallying point, they meandered a 150-mile course through Springville, Varysburg and Franklinville, ending up at the American Legion post in Little Valley.
According to Chuck's family and friends, the third annual ride will be held June 15, 2013. The same award is being planned.