Dayton’s ‘Motorcycle Mama,’ 102, takes 1 more ride

Velma Thornburgh of Dayton celebrated her 102nd birthday Sunday on a motorcycle ride with the Templar Crusaders Motorcycle Club Northern Nevada.

Velma Thornburgh of Dayton celebrated her 102nd birthday Sunday on a motorcycle ride with the Templar Crusaders Motorcycle Club Northern Nevada.
Jessica Garcia/Nevada Appeal

The “Motorcycle Mama” of Dayton Velma Thornburgh received the thrill of a lifetime on one more ride Saturday going down U.S. 50 and back to her home.
“I just can’t believe it,” she said as members of the Templar Crusaders Motorcycle Club Northern Nevada came to celebrate her 102nd birthday, and they went all out for the occasion.
Friends and family came from Fernley, where Thornburgh and her daughter Sandra Bell previously lived, and surrounding areas. Thornburgh was born April 10, 1920.

Mother and daughter Velma Thornburgh and Sandra Bell, Dayton residents, celebrate Thornburgh’s 102nd birthday. (Photo: Jessica Garcia/Nevada Appeal)


The bikers from the Templar Crusaders drove up and decked her out in a Harley-Davidson jacket and made sure she was carefully and gently fitted just right in a helmet. They secured her behind Bruce Harmon, president of the Templar Crusaders, a law enforcement and first responder veterans club whose mission is to serve local seniors through annual events such as the Silver Angel Tree every Thanksgiving. It also collects funds and gifts through a poker run. While it was the first time the group had done a birthday ride, Harmon said he couldn’t pass up the opportunity for Thornburgh.
Dayton residents Sandra Bell, far left, and Velma Thornburgh, center, share a laugh as they return from a motorcycle ride with members of the Templar Crusaders Motorcycle to celebrate Thornburgh’s 102nd birthday Saturday. (Photo: Jessica Garcia/Nevada Appeal)


“This just felt like something we should do, so I invited all my brothers and sisters (from Dayton or Reno),” he said.
Bell, 77, said her mother’s wish was to go on one more motorcycle ride this year. She had ridden horses and bikes for years well into her 80s and picked up the reputation as the “Motorcycle Mama.”
To commemorate the special “102,” Bell ordered a large birthday cake this year with a photo showing Thornburgh on a bike from her earlier riding days. She also reached out to Harmon and the club through a church contact and Harmon’s niece Brieanna Smith and asked if they’d grant Thornburgh’s wish.

Velma Thornburgh of Dayton celebrated her 102nd birthday and sits with a cake showing her reputation as the “Motorcycle Mama” at her birthday party. (Photo: Jessica Garcia/Nevada Appeal)


As for the ride itself, Harmon said Thornburgh made it as far as she could on U.S. 50, making it down to nearly the post office before needing to turn back.
“It was quite an honor and all of my friends, they wouldn’t have passed it up,” he said, adding that the community should know that “not all bikers are bad guys.
“Most of the guys that run around town that ride these big beasts are great big teddy bears,” Harmon said. “We’re here to help the community and this is just one thing that we love to do.”
Bell said she was grateful for the club’s generous gesture to her mother.
“I almost cried when I got on the motorcycle, I was trying so hard not to cry,” she said. “That really does mean a lot to me. I know it did to Mom. That’s what I told Bruce. How do you say thank you? There’s no words. She couldn’t wait. She was the queen of the day.”
Bell said Thornburgh would ride with her father when she was younger, and eventually it became a tradition to ride every year on her birthday until COVID-19 hit.
“She’s a remarkable person,” Bell said. “She’s got more stamina than I do, and I can’t keep up with her. … She’s had a birthday beyond anything she’s ever dreamed.
“I’m just so grateful for those guys (from Templar Crusaders) and the ladies from the church to get those numbers.”

Daughter and mother Sandra Bell and Velma Thornburgh, center, and the Templar Crusaders Motorcycle Club gather for a photo after taking the ladies for a ride for Thornburgh’s 102nd birthday Saturday. (Photo: Jessica Garcia/Nevada Appeal) 


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