George H. Esler, III
May 21, 1942 - June 11, 2004
Friends come and go in our lives, but when they go unexpectedly it is harder to cope with the loss. On June 5, our friend and Harley rider, George Esler had a motorcycle accident at 291 & Kentucky in Independence, Missouri. Suffering extensive brain injury, a collapsed lung and numerous broken bones he survived until the following Friday when he took one last ride on the “Highway to Heaven.”
We met George through our riding friends, Jerry Alumbaugh and Reva Weaver. Jerry and George had been best buds for over twenty years so we rode with them many times to local and state rallies. You couldn’t miss George when he entered a room, standing over 6’3”, beautiful snow white hair and booming voice. He was a big teddy bear and gentle giant to his friends and family.
It’s sad that we learn more about a person when they are gone than when they were alive. The minister who gave the eulogy, Sandy Seaba, had known George since second grade and for 51 years they had remained best friends. He shared humorous stories of the pranks and mischief they got into growing up. He shared the true meaning of what George meant to him and how precious friendships are suppose to be. There wasn’t a dry eye in the chapel. Added to the service were beautiful songs sung by the harmonious voices of Big John Amaro and Johnny Eye (Two Johnny’s on the Spot), who were favorite musicians of George and Carmen.
George was raised by his mother who lost her husband and George’s father at Pearl Harbor while she was pregnant with George. I’m sure he was a handful for a single mom in those days, but she was proud of the son she raised. Knowing he needed the mentorship of other males she sent him to Ponca City Military Academy in Ponca City, Oklahoma where he graduated with top honors. He then went on to attend and graduate from Northwest Missouri State University in Maryville, Missouri. George was a true-blue, dedicated General Motors man, just eight months short of retirement after 29 years of service. He loved his family; wife, Carmen of 34 years and their only son, Aarin who resides in Jacksonville, Florida.
His passion in life was his family and his Harley. Carmen rides a Harley-Davidson trike and together they rode throughout the United States. In fact, they were returning from a week vacation in Arkansas and Kentucky when the accident happened. They had stopped at Wise Guys Bar & Grill in Blue Springs to buy a t-shirt for their son, when George said, “Carmen, let’s go. There is a big cloud overhead and we’ve got to get home.” Little did they know they would never make it to Platte City, Missouri, and that George would make it to a different home, a home in the sky. One where there are no cages slamming their brakes on in front of you, no cages pulling in front of you at a light, no drivers cutting you off on the highway, and no semi-trucks blowing you away.
George was punctual anytime we planned a trip and always wanted to start the trip with a big breakfast in some small town. You could ask him about great food places and he would rattle off several from the road trips to small towns. I remember him saying more than once, “If you’re going on a long trip and you are riding a Harley, you better have a trailer with you.” Going to Sturgis in 1999, our friend Jerry broke down. He might have given George a hard time about trailering but he sure was glad George was hauling his bike because off came George’s bike and on went Jerry’s for the final 120 miles into Rapid City to the Harley dealership.
I have never attended a funeral in my Harley-Davidson rain gear, but on the morning of June 15th it was decided as a tribute to our friend, we would ride, rain or shine. It thundered and poured rain that morning before leaving. About ten minutes before we saddled up to leave, it stopped. Friends were there in biker vests, leathers, jeans, rain suits and doorags. We were there to honor George; this is how he knew us. After the service the weather was clearing up and approximately 20 bikes started their engines for the funeral procession that would take us to Mount Grove in Independence, Missouri where George had grown up. Once we arrived at the cemetery, the sun started to peek out, warming our solemn faces and the layers of clothing started coming off. We all said it was George smiling down on us. We said our final goodbyes to George H. Esler, III knowing he led a full life, but one that was cut short. He will be sadly missed by Carmen and Aarin and all that knew and loved him.
We had one more stop to make before our day ended. We rode to the accident scene, walked across to the median where the break-a-way sign was that George hit. There, Pastor Seaba placed a red rose and we joined hands for a final prayer.
As we turned to walk away, I saw a penny on the ground, it was heads up so I picked it up and put it in my pocket for good luck…I’m thinking it was George’s.
Our journey on earth continues, but George has reached his final destination. Rest in peace our dear friend.
Tribute and Photos by: Goldie Arnold