While there are several services of this type around the country, Ron Roach’s Last Ride Funeral Services in Mount Greenwood in Chicago, Illinois, stands out. Ron came up with the idea almost 17 years ago, and he’s been in business more than 15 of these, which probably makes his business one of the oldest of the kind around.
The idea of turning his Harley into a hearse came to him after he and his mates attended the funeral of a fellow biker and they had to ride behind a regular Cadillac funeral car, Ron told DNAInfo in an older interview. He imagined what a proper biker hearse would look like based on old horse-drawn versions of one, drew it on a napkin and then turned that idea into reality soon after.
Ron is a retired Chicago firefighter and he’s a member of the local MC club. He wanted to create something that would make anyone’s last ride a memorable experience for mourners and, at the same time, to turn it into a celebration of life.
The hearse is a trailer of sorts that attaches to Ron’s Harley (he rode a 2002 model at the time he gave this interview, in addition to a 1962 and 2013 models). In order to have more stability, the bike itself was fitted with a set of extra wheels, which made it resemble a trike. Both the rear wheels and the trailer could easily be detached so Ron could go out riding with his buddies whenever he wanted.
The trailer / hearse took about 4 days to build and it was the work of friends getting together to do a good deed. It was then furnished in a fashion that still spoke to bikers, but that wouldn’t be deemed disrespectful by non-bikers or grieving family members. After all, this was a very serious matter and there was no room for error.
To further dispel the idea that the Last Ride service made light of people’s grief and death in general, Ron opted for a uniform whenever he rides for work. He will show up in “a white tuxedo type shirt, black pants, and vest with shined boots,” and make sure all details of the ceremony are handled in the most professional manner, the official Facebook of the family-owned business notes.
Back in 2015, Ron was saying he was hardly making any money off the funeral service, unique and attention-grabbing as it was, despite charging $700 for one ride and getting calls from all over the country. In order to be able to fulfill these engagements, Ron bought an actual trailer to haul the hearse to remote cities, and he would ride by bike.
Then again, he did not get into the business because he was looking to get rich: as stated above, he simply wanted to find a way to help fellow bikers, no matter who or where they were from, go out in a style consistent to the way they’d lived.
At the time, he was also thinking of turning another Harley into a limo-type that would ferry four or five people to prom and weddings, and more similar happy festivities. That would have entailed a different type of work than he’d put in the Harley hearse, for the simple reason that you can’t transport passengers in a trailer.
Whether he was ever able to get it done we don’t know, but there’s always the horrendous-looking Harley Limousine / LimoBike (actually a Chevrolet trike, despite its name) for that. Meanwhile, the Harley hearse is proof that some of the strangest and most amazing things happen when you apply yourself to an idea, and that the biker / Harley community remains one of the tightest-knit and most awesome around.