110th Anniversary Look Back

110th Anniversary Look Back - Day 310

Today we share of the tragic passing of Julius Kegel, as reported in a late August 1978 edition of the Morning Star.

Motorcyclist, 87, killed in crash
by Beth Hopp

Julius Kegel, 87, Davis, a longtime motorcyclist, was killed Monday night when the motorcycle he was riding collided with a pickup truck in the far northwest corner of Winnebago County.

State police said the accident occurred about 8 p.m. near Trask Bridge and Best roads and the Winnebago-Stephenson county line.

The pickup truck, driven by Elden Harms, 25, Pecatonica, was traveling east on Trask Bridge Road, according to state police. Harms told police that, as he was approaching the intersection, he saw the motorcycle with a sidecar northbound on Best Road.

Harms said he slowed when he began to think the motorcycle was not going to stop, although there are stop signs on Best Road at the intersection.

According to state police, Harms told them he applied his brakes but collided with the motorcycle as he skidded.

The motorcycle fell and stuck under the truck's front bumper and the two vehicles slid off the north side of Trask Bridge Road into a ditch.

Kegel was well known in the area and referred to himself as the world's oldest active motorcyclist. He is dog was a frequent companion, riding in the sidecar.

In 1972, Kegel covered about 17,000 miles on his motrocycle on seven different tours. His itinerary included 3,000 miles in Europe.

On his 85th birthday, he left-for a 22-day, seven-country sidecar tour of Europe.

Accidents in past years hadn't dimmed Kegel's enthusiasm for motorcycle riding.

His tours of Europe and the United States included unexpected hospital visits - in Germany, Switzerland, Popular Bluff, Mo., and Freeport, where he lived before moving to Lake Summerset.

On his way to Panama in 1961, the then-70-year-old cyclist crashed when hit by a strong wind gust near Popular Bluff. Kegel's leg from the knee down was so badly torn and broken, he spent 14 months in the hospital.

During the long rehabilitation sessions, Kegel is reported to have said that his life wouldn't be worth living if he could no longer cycle.

Kegel returned to the road, using a sidecar more often in his later years and contending the support of an extra wheel made cycling safer.

For the past 10 years, Kegel had been unable to taste or smell, the result of an accident that severly injured the upper portion of his head.

Another hobby the spry widower enjoyed was knitting stocking caps for friends during the cold winter months.

Monday night was a little chilly, with temperatures dipping to the 60s. After the accident, a small orange wool knitted cap lay next to the crushed cycle and broken sidecar.

Kegel died of chest injuries and multiple fractures, Deputy Coroner Marv Faust said Monday night. A coroners' inquest is pending, he said.

Funeral arrangements were pending at Schwartz Funeral Home in Freeport.

Investigation of the accident is continuing, state police said.

Kegel's nephew, Robert Kegel, owns the Harley Davidson motorcycle dealership in Rockford. Names of other survivors were not available early today.

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