Former Argyle resident strikes one thing off bucket list

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Russell Wenke has long enjoyed motorcycle rides, but in what was likely his final ride Thursday, he had to do it from a sidecar.

Just 18 months ago, Russ Wenke was doing chores on his 280-acre farm in Argyle. He had served the community for 30 years as a volunteer firefighter.

But two years ago, he was diagnosed with Bulbar Palsy, a type of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease). It affects a person’s voluntary muscle movement, and the symptoms get worse over time.

In the last year and a half, it began to cripple his body to where he had to move to The Madison care center in Fort Madison last October.

Wenke, 62, is now in hospice through HCI Hospice Care Services through The Madison. But on Thursday, Wenke was able to do one more motorcycle ride with the Rev. Jim Luder, his spiritual care counselor and a volunteer chaplain for HCI.

Luder met Wenke during routine hospice visits, and Luder shared his plans for adding a sidecar to his Harley Davidson.

Wenke then reminisced about the motorcycle rides he went on with his friends about a couple of times a week before his diagnosis.

Luder offered to give him a ride when he got the sidecar, and Thursday they rode down to Keokuk’s Rand Park – where Wenke had ridden in the past — and back to The Madison. They rode along with a group of riders from the local ABATE group.

“This is on my bucket list,” he told Mike Breese, Wenke’s nurse through HCI. “Hospice is helping me live better.”

Because of his illness, Wenke writes what he wants to say on a tablet.

“It’s going to be fun,” Wenke had said in anticipation. “Any chance to get out of the building and get outside is like a sense of freedom to me.”

“When we first started caring for him,” Breese said, “he’d take his walker out to do chores and used every kind of adaptive resource he could to stay on his farm.”

Now Wenke is confined to a wheelchair and had to be hoisted into the sidecar seat. But he managed a smile as he settled in, and then he headed to one more road trip.

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Craig Ballantyne

I love anything to do with Harley Davidson and have two beautiful children and a beautiful partner. In my spare time i like building websites and love anything to do with the internet.

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