Tuesday, September 2, 2008

A Great Person Has Left Us...

A light has gone out in heaven, and it has dimmed this page today. I learned that one of the most outstanding biker women I have ever met lost her life in a car accident on August 31st, 2008. Jane Kern, 70, who probably had two hundred-thousand two-wheeled miles under her belt, was killed when the car she was riding in was a struck by another vehicle. So great was the impact that one vehicle flipped over and both burst into flames.

I first met Jane by electronic proxy when I joined the About.com motorcycle forum in 2005. Jane was the wife of Walter Kern, the biker guru and columnist who anchored the forum. He had all the answers... She had the personality. Jane Kern was the one who never forgot a birthday, was the first to extend congratulations, and never had a cross word for anyone.

Two of my favorite people: Jane Kern (Customkat) and Sammye (Granny2Wheels)
At The BuRP Rally In Maggie Valley, July 2006
Photo courtesy of  Walter Kern
© Walter Kern 2006

Jane was standing on the porch of a quaint little hotel in Maggie Valley, North Carolina, when I first pulled up on a dusty 1986 K75, for the 2006 BuRP Rally. I was one of the last ones to arrive, and she made me feel like the guest of honor. She listened to the adventure of my ride with open wonder. It would be 5 more days before I discovered that she had outridden me to a factor of three. And she would do it again on the her ride back home to Freehold, NJ with husband Walt -- in the rain.

Jane Kern struggles to save my dignity by getting the zipper on my jacket closed
as I set off for home -- a distance she will exceed in a third of the time.
Photo courtesy Walter Kern
© Walter Kern 2006

I can’t believe she’s gone. And yet the warmth of her smile and personality was so strong, I don’t believe she is.

I seem to recall that Jane Kern liked lighthouses. I haven’t been riding much due to worsening arthritis. But I am going to ride to a lighthouse on September 20th in memory of Jane Kern. And I hope the wind is blowing that day, or that the gulls are screaming... Because I am going to share a laugh with her. And I’m sure it won’t be the last one either.

I extend my deepest sympathies to Walter Kern, who is one of the nicest guys I've ever met. I am so sorry. 

Jack Riepe
AKA The Lindbergh Baby (Mac-Pac)
AKA Vindak8r (Delphi)
AKA The Chamberlain -- PS (With A Shrug)


David Campbell said...

Jack... Wow... What a wonderful tribute to a great lady. Thanks for posting this as I'm on and off the forums and might have missed this.

Take care my friend.

Dave Campbell

Jack Riepe said...


I owe you two-emails. I've been meaning to write you a long letter bringing you up to date on things -- and I have two speeds: slow and reverse. Send me your telephone number (to my personal e-mail), and tell me when I can call.

Of course, Steve Assan will point out that I owe him a call for a month and Mack Harrell will chime in that I cross the street when I see him coming. Let's chat soon.

Fondest regards,

Sojourner rides said...

Jack, thanks for this great honor to Jane K. I loved reading about her adventures with Walter when I was active on the forum. She seemed a gentle spirit and that came across on the electronic waves. So very sorry to hear this. I also recalled reading the stories from that Maggie Valley trip and wishing I had gotten to know some of those people, Jane was one of them.

Grandad 43 said...

Jack, a fine tribute as we remember Jane. I recall the luncheon that was held to honor Walt at Bucks Bounty, that was when we first met jane.
I previously sent our sympathies to Walt.

Grandad 43 PS 14

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Sharon;

There are times when you think life as you know it will go one forever... And then something changes. Jane Kern was a gentle soul who will be greatly missed.

May God hold you and your family in his hand always.

Jack Riepe

Jack Riepe said...


I remember that luncheon like it was yesterday. I'm sorry we didn't have another one this year. I suspect it's time.

Take care of yourself and yours,

Jack Riepe

Thumper said...

Jack, thank you for sharing this. Those of us who never had the honor of meeting her are touched by the memories of those who did. I appreciate the wonderful words being shared about someone who was clearly Most Awesome.

karen said...


What a marvelous tribute to Jane. We only met twice, but she made me feel special, as I am sure she did everyone she encountered.

Heaven just got a spectacular angel.

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Thumper:

Jane was one of a kind, but she had a way of making you feel the same way too. I had the privilege of hanging around with her for about a week. But it seemed so much shorter than that.

And every minute is more special now, because there can't be any more. I think the time has come to start making time to see all the people that I like. I don't know how I'm going to do it... But I will. You're on the list.

Fondest regards,
Jack Riepe

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Karen:

Walt sent me a nice note today, in which he said, "a few seconds of terror can change a lifetime." He's right. And it makes it all the more important to have every second count... To never leave unsaid the things that can a person's day extra special. You never know how long you'll have t say them... Or how log they will be able to hear them.

Fondest regards,
The Lindbergh Baby
West Chester, Pa

Joe said...


Great tribute to a great lady. Sorry I never knew her.

Ride Safe,


Jack Riepe said...

Dear Joe:

I would have preferred to write anything else this week. Thanks for your kind note.

Fondest regards,
Jack Riepe