110th Anniversary Look Back

110th Anniversary Look Back - Day 249

110th Anniversary Look Back - Day 249

On this date 21 years ago the Rockford Register Star published this piece on Bob:

He made Harleys part of Kegel family values

It was always late in the day when Bob Kegel pulled himself away from the motorcycle shop founded by his father, Robert.

His kids - some just 3 or 4 years old at the time - would hear their dad coming down the street on his Harley-Davidson. By the time he reached the driveway, they'd be tugging at his pant legs.

"He'd wrap his arms around us and take one of us around the block, then go back and get another one," said Karl Kegel, the third eldest of Bob Kegel's five children. "It was the most fabulous part of our day."

Bob Kegel died Monday at age 81 of complications from Parkinson's disease and post-polio syndrome. He was chief executive officer of Kegel Motorcycle Co., which was founded in 1910 in Freeport.

Kegel's is recognized as the world's oldest Harley-Davidson dealership.

Last year, Harley-Davidson passed Honda as the No. 1 seller of motorcycles in the United States.

Two of Bob Kegel's sons - Karl and Mark - have been running the business the past two decades. Another son, Joe, works at the dealership; a fourth, Paul, runs another Harley-Davidson shop in Milwaukee. His daughter, Carole Egler, retired years ago from the business.

In 1996, Kegel built its current sales and service center in Cherry Valley, a move that Bob Kegel didn't want to make.

"He was 75 and definitely did not want to expand because he was really thinking retirement," Karl Kegel said. "But he let us stick our necks out, and it's been very successful."

Kegel supported his sons in other decisions, though it took much convincing.

"We wanted to close at 8 o'clock on Mondays and Fridays, and he finally let us," Karl Kegel said. "He didn't want to, because that's the way his father did it."

Sixty-hour work weeks were common for Bob Kegel, and he knew his store.

"He knew where all the parts in the shop were and what you needed to fix the bike," said Ethel Voy of Rockford, who started riding motorcycles with Bob Kegel in 1946.

Bob Kegel occasionally sported a mustache and had a deep voice. He'd wear a piece of leather clothing for its full life.

His arms were strong, though he walked with a limp in his right leg from the polio he suffered as a child.

He especially liked to ride Harley Sportsters and did so until the last few years of his life.

"He rode a Harley and owned a Harley shop, but his attitude was that it didn't matter what brand of motorcycle you rode," Voy said.

So he liked Hondas?

"He thought the Honda drivers would graduate into Harley-Davidsons," Karl Kegel said.

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