Just One Last Ride
The Owen Collection thanks Tom White for this touching recollection of his friendship with our founder, Kelly Owen. While his recent passing has deeply affected all of us here at the museum, we know that Kelly would not want it to effect the museum he created and loved. We are still here bringing Kelly’s legacy to you.
My name is Tom White and I have been friends with Kelly Owen for almost 20 years. Our relationship started out as most motorcycling friends do, by just liking the bikes……specifically motocross bikes and probably meeting at the races. Or? it might have been at White Brothers, the motorcycle accessory company that I owned for 25 years of my life and he was a customer. Though, I don’t remember our first visit, the evolving friendship has changed, enhanced, and improved my life in so many ways. We became the best of friends, and though motorcycles were our common thread, we never actually rode motorcycles together! More on that later!
Some history about Kelly. Back in his youth, he was a young aspiring pro motocrosser that through luck, wisdom, or good common sense…..chose to focus on his business and family life instead of being a racer. He married the love of his life – Senene and they had two beautiful children – Ashley and Brad. Hey, I’ve got a son Brad also……just thought I’d mention that! After apprenticing in roofing with his dad, he eventually started his construction business – Clarion Construction and over the 28 years, the company has become one the most respected and sought after in the cold storage business.
For friends of Kelly, it is no secret that his collection of motocross motorcycles from the 60’s and early 70’s was his passion. Title is “The Owen Collection” and is without a doubt the fore-most collection of motocross machines in the world. The collection count is at 75 now and I’m glad that the family will continue to welcome visitors and cherish/share the beautifully displayed machines at the companies office. As bad as his addiction to these bikes was, I’m even worse as I have the Early Years of Motocross Collection and my current collector bike count is at 150. That doesn’t include the more current motorcycles that I continue to ride and race……20 or so I think…..lost count? Where most of mine were purchased and restored by others, Kelly did the majority of the restorations in his spare time. He had every skill, from fabrication, to metal work, to paint. Kelly could do it all!
So, in the beginning of our friendship, it was about the bikes and that continued to be the common thread of our friendship. But, there is way more to Kelly and my friendship and it started by him convincing me that he could teach me how to play golf about eight years ago. Almost every Tuesday for those years we have been in the golf cart for four hours together sharing business, life, goals, family, and our collections…….and golf. Lunch would always follow with the two golf buddies, Dean and Jay, that Kel introduced me to. Kelly was 100% successful in helping me in the business, life, goals, family stuff, but somehow he was not quite as successful in teaching me golf. I still remember the “Tom, don’t drop your shoulder, your lifting your head, I’ll watch the ball, etc!” He just wanted the best for me in golf and in life!
On my bequest, Kelly served as a Board of Directors with the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame and together we Co-Chaired the Concours motorcycle show that became a centerpiece of the Hall of Fame Induction weekend. Last year, when I hosted a fund raiser for the High Hopes Head Injury Program on my 4-acre property in Villa Park, Kelly not only wrote a big check to support the event, but joined in the event organization. We raised $125,000 for the head injury program that helps my disabled son Brad and others. Cool Kelly!!
Just days before the stroke that ended up taking his life, we played our usual golf game and he shared how proud he was of his son Brad’s success in the company, his love for his family, the latest projects, the upcoming trip with Senene to Ireland, and wanting to spend more time on his golf game. I scored an 87 at the Yorba Linda Country Club, the best score ever for me and Kelly played caddie for me with perfect directions. More important, at lunch I convinced him to join me for a 100 mile Dual-Sport ride out of Glen Helen Raceway on Saturday. It was going to be our first motorcycle ride together and the fund raising event was going to benefit the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation.
As I drove out to Glen Helen on Saturday, my cell phone rang at 6:30AM. It was Kelly and he said he had been sick to his stomach and weak and wasn’t going to be able to join me for the ride. Two hours later he was admitted to Pomona Valley Hospital’s ICU unit. I sure wish we could have had “Just One Last Ride!” RIP KO!
Early Years of Motocross Museum