BRATTLEBORO—To a casual observer, the scene outside Lynde Motorsports on the afternoon of Oct. 10 was just like any other day at 79 Flat St.
Lines of motorcycles parked out front. A lot of blue denim and black leather. Snacks. Ice cream. All sorts of people talking, laughing, hugging.
This was my third visit to Lynde Motorsports. The first time was in early August, to interview Stanley Lynde about the frequent flooding at his shop — that was the impromptu party. That’s when he told everyone I was from Rolling Stone magazine. Of course I played along.
The second time — during his official, annual block party — was a few weeks later, to deliver copies of the newspaper when the article came out. That visit began and ended with big hugs from Stanley.
It seemed like you only had to meet him once. Then you were friends.
But, the last time I was there, last Tuesday, the vibe was different. And someone was missing, at least in his physical form.
The evening before, on October 9, Stanley Lynde died at the Albany (N.Y.) Medical Center, from injuries sustained during a Sept. 25 motorcycle accident on Route 5 in Westminster.
According to the GoFundMe.com page his daughter Kelli Worden established to raise funds for related expenses, Lynde and his wife Laura D’Angelo were riding along when “a truck pulled directly in front of them and they had no recourse or time to react and they took a direct hit.”
D’Angelo was taken to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, N.H., for treatment of broken ribs, a broken wrist, and a concussion, while Lynde was flown from the scene to Albany (N.Y.) Medical Center with an array of serious injuries including fractures to his left shoulder, hip, and pelvis, a broken right femur, two spinal fractures, and a weakened aorta.
Since then, D’Angelo was released from the hospital, but Lynde’s injuries kept him under constant medical care until the end.
So, on Tuesday, hours after word came in that Lynde was gone, his friends and family showed up at the shop with food, bottles of water, coffee, and a keg of beer.
“I’ve known Stanley for years,” one friend said to another.
“How far back?”
“That’s a long time.”
’The community that Stanley created’
Josh Steele and Chris John, owners of Vintage Steele, the motorcycle repair and custom-build shop just up the hill on Canal Street, were gathered there with Sarah Rice and Jamie Cansler, their respective companions.
“There are people here today who are supposed to be at work,” said Steele. “We opened our shop for a few minutes this morning,” he said, and he and John quickly realized they’d rather be with friends “at Stan’s.”
“I went to the store [this morning] and got a bunch of bagels and cream cheese and coffee because I knew large amounts of people would be turning up [...] to pay respects and show solidarity in the community that Stanley created,” Steele said.
Although Steele and Lynde served similar clientele, there was no rivalry between the two shops.
“I apprenticed with Stanley 10 years ago,” Steele said.
“Sarah [Rice] and I quit drinking. And when you quit drinking you discover you have more time and money,” and Steele said he wanted to spend some of each on motorcycles. He decided to start with mopeds, but needed some guidance. He and Rice lived a few blocks from Lynde Motorsports, but wasn’t sure how the bikers would treat a newbie who wanted to ride a moped.
“One day I was walking by [Lynde Motorsports] and I said, ‘Screw it.’ I walked in and saw a bunch of dudes sitting around. I said, ‘I’m curious about mopeds,’” Steele said.
Instead of laughing at him, Lynde sold him a broken moped, which Steele took home and fixed.
A few weeks later, Steele was walking by Kipling’s Restaurant & Pub, and “Stanley ran outside, yelling, ’Hey! Hey! What are you doing? I’m super busy and I need a moped guy!’”
Although Steele was working full-time at another job, he spent “every spare moment” that summer working with Lynde on mopeds and other small motors.
“It was more than just repair and maintenance,” Steele said. “He gave me the confidence to do what I’m doing now.”
“I owe so much to Stanley in who I’ve become. I want him to know how much I love and appreciate him,” Steele said.
Tom Abbotts, friends with Lynde for about six years, said Lynde kept inviting him to visit the shop. “I said, ‘I won’t ’til you give me something to do.’” It worked. About nine months ago, Lynde hired him.
“Stanley was not just a mechanic. He was a machinist and a self-taught engineer,” Abbotts said.
Another friend, Gary Knapp, chimed in.
“Stanley knows more about motorcycles than most guys forgot,” said Knapp. “Stanley gave away more parts than he ever sold. Stanley gave away his knowledge.”
Knapp told a story about kids showing up with motorbikes, asking Lynde to fix the motors. Instead, Lynde would show them how to fix and rebuild the motors, so they could do it themselves. Of course, he wouldn’t charge them, Knapp said.
“Every morning when we’d open the shop, and the junkies would walk by, Stanley would call out to them, ‘Hey! Are you high?’ And they’d say, ‘No.’ And he’d say, ‘Come over and have a muffin and some coffee,’” said Abbotts. “He didn’t love what they were doing, but they were human beings.”
“He left a big hole in a lot of hearts in the community. He had a heart as big as I’ve ever seen,” Knapp added.
“Make sure you thank Stan for his love of rust and his old police-issue Harley,” said John Clark, a long-time friend. “He couldn’t ever sell it because it was his ‘chick-magnet.’”
John Lynde said friends and motorcycles were always a part of his older brother’s life.
“He started his shop in my mother’s garage,” John said, “so friends were always around.”
“My mother had a coffee can on her kitchen table for when someone said the F-word. They’d have to put in 25-cents,” said John. “His friends would come over and put a $5 bill right in the can.”
John’s first memory of Stanley is “when I was four or five years old. It was 7 o’clock in the morning and he brought me outside in my pajamas because he wanted to take a picture of me on his motorcycle. He was 18 or 19. My sister still has that picture.”
“Our dad died when I was 12. What Stanley did here,” in creating this community, “is what he did with me,” John said.
He gave an example: One day, when he was 16, John needed a ride to school, but Stanley had to go to work. Since Stanley had a truck to take to his job, he said to his little brother, “Here, ride this ’47 Knucklehead to school.”
When I asked what that was, John said, “It’s a special, cool Harley.”
“That’s what he did,” John said.
“This has been the hardest two weeks. Boston Larry came here the first day, and every day, and he sat with me,” John said.
As John told the story, artist Bill Forchion stopped by to pay his respects.
“I’d rather be here owing Stanley money than for this reason,” Forchion said.
When I asked him for some memories of Stanley Lynde, Forchion told me about his daughter, who loved coming to see Lynde because he’d let her dig both hands deep into the bowls of candy he kept in the shop. She could take home whatever she could grab.
Forchion said that when his daughter learned Lynde was in the hospital, she said, “I want him to get better so I can give him a lollipop.”
As if on cue, Crude, a friend who has been helping take care of D’Angelo, came up and offered us a treat from one of two boxes of ice cream novelties he was holding.
After we chose an ice cream sandwich, or an ice cream pop, or both, Crude went to every person in front of and across the street from Lynde Motorsports. When he was finished and there was still ice cream left, he began approaching strangers walking down Flat Street.
“Would you like some ice cream?” Crude asked.
“It’s three o’clock,” Crude said. “Stanley has ice cream every day at three!”
The last goodbye
A memorial ride took place on Oct. 14, and hundreds of motorcyclists from all over turned out.
That morning, Flat Street was filled with motorcycles and the roar of their engines echoed throughout downtown.
The bikers were joined by the Now and Then Vehicles Club, who members brought out their classic cars to join the procession up Main Street on their way to Hinesburg Road in Guilford, where a celebration of Stanley’s life was held at a out-of-the-way field that barely accommodated the hundreds who came.
Even after the week-long wake at his shop, and the never-ending deliveries of flowers, sweets, coffee, and stories to Flat Street, there still wasn’t a place big enough to hold all the love that so many had for Stanley Lynde.