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Published Fri, Jul 18, 2014 07:30 AM
Modified Fri, Jul 18, 2014 07:32 AM

Widowed veteran takes up motorcycles, 400-mile ride one year after husband’s crash

- ndunn@newsobserver.com
Pam Meek starts her motorcycle before beginning the trip from Clayton to Miracle, Ky.
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- ndunn@newsobserver.com

As the motorcycle engines begin to rumble, Pam Meek hurries over to her bike.

She pulls one layer of leather over her shoulders, then another, before tying her hair and tightening her helmet strap. It’s time to hit the road – something she’s still getting used to doing from the driver’s seat.

It wasn’t that long ago that Meek was riding shotgun on a motorcycle driven by her husband, Gary. On July 7, 2013, the two Air Force veterans were part of an American Legion Riders escort, transporting a piece of the World Trade Center to a fire department in Rocky Mount.

While on that trip in Nash County, the left tire of the Meeks’ three-wheeled motorcycle came off. The ensuing jolt threw Pam off the trike, and Gary lost control and crashed.

Pam was hurt. Gary died at the scene.

“It was a terrible shock,” said Maureen Dunlap, a member of Clayton American Legion Post 71, where the Meeks were members. Friends and fellow bikers reached out to the family to lend support, some leaving comments in online chat rooms that described Gary as an “honorable person” and “humble man.”

After the crash, Pam said, she was admittedly fearful of motorcycles. But at the same time, she knew that Gary loved them. So in the fall of 2013, she started a beginner’s course for motorcycle riders at Johnston Community College. In December, she bought her first bike.

“I had never rode before,” Pam said. “I had always been a passenger; I liked it that way.

“But it is important to try to honor him by doing the things he enjoyed.”

Pam went on her first American Legion Riders escort to Goldsboro last month. It was good preparation for a longer ride in July: a 400-mile trip to Kentucky, where Pam buried Gary’s ashes in a family plot.

‘Never met a stranger’

Pam and Gary met while serving in the military, and the two got married in May 1977 at Kincheloe Air Force Base in Michigan.

After retiring with more than 20 years of military service, Gary accepted a job with Caterpillar in Smithfield in 2004, and the Meeks moved to Clayton. Pam started working for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, where Gary also found a job in 2007.

Friends say Gary, a skilled martial artist and tae kwon do instructor, “never met a stranger,” adding that he always walked around with a smile on his face.

“He was a very happy guy,” said Tom Meece, one of Gary’s friends and a fellow Post 71 member. “He was a joy to be around.”

Pam, who said her husband was an avid supporter of active and retired veterans, also remembers Gary for his kindness.

“When he said, ‘Good morning,’ he meant it,” Pam said. “If he asked you how you were doing, he meant it.”

Gary’s ‘last ride’

After Gary’s death, Pam and her family looked for a way to honor his memory. They decided to take his ashes to a family plot in Miracle, Ky. It would be Gary’s “last ride,” Pam said.

Members of the Legion Riders continued helping Pam learn how to ride and volunteered to accompany her on the trip to Kentucky.

Eight bikes and three cars left at 9 a.m. July 11 from Percy Flowers Store near Clayton. They arrived in Kentucky that evening, and a ceremony was held the next day in Sol Wilson Cemetery.

Meece, who led the escort to Kentucky, said it was a fitting tribute for a patriot.

“He was very much a family man and loved his children and grandchildren,” Meece said. “I’m very proud of him. I am very proud of his family.”

Dunn: 919-553-7234, Ext. 104

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Images

  • A rider takes off on a trip from Clayton to Miracle, Ky., where Pam Meek buried her husband Gary’s ashes. Gary died in a motorcycle crash in July 2013, while helping transport a piece of the Twin Towers to Rocky Mount.
    Nash Dunn - ndunn@newsobserver.com
  • Pam Meek, left, talks with a fellow participant in a ride from Clayton to Miracle, Ky., where she buried the ashes of her husband, Gary. Gary died in a motorcycle crash in July 2013 while helping transport a piece of the Twin Towers to Rocky Mount.
    Nash Dunn - ndunn@newsobserver.com
  • Pam Meek, left, talks with fellow participants in a ride from Clayton to Miracle, Ky., where she buried the ashes of her husband, Gary. Gary died in a motorcycle crash in July 2013 while helping transport a piece of the Twin Towers to Rocky Mount.
    Nash Dunn - ndunn@newsobserver.com
  • Gary Meek was a veteran of the U.S. Air Force.
    PHOTO COURTESY OF PAM MEEK

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