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“It was perfect:” Motorcyclists honor lifelong Harley-Davidson rider’s birthday wish for last ride

Tom Strehlow Harley-Davidson birthday celebration

MILWAUKEE -- A lifelong rider of Harley-Davidson motorcycles, and a former employee of the company, celebrated his 78th birthday with a special gift from his family. A group of about 30 people showed up with their motorcycles to grant the birthday wish on Saturday, August 12th.

"Our connection has always been motorcycles," said Forest Mrezek, Tom's at-home nurse.

Tom Strehlow Harley-Davidson birthday celebration

Being lifted into the sidecar was Tom Strehlow. He's turning 78 -- no small feat. It was a celebration of years lived, shadowed by his health.

Tom Strehlow Harley-Davidson birthday celebration

"He didn't have a good short-term memory. He also has Lewy body dementia so that's another part of the dimension of his disease," said Mrezek.

Strehlow was also diagnosed with terminal cancer.

After a 30-minute ride, they arrived at the Harley-Davidson Museum; a great surprise that was more than he could ask for.

"No, it was perfect, beautiful. All I really wanted was a handshake," said Strehlow.

Tom Strehlow

Friends and family of Strehlow believe this could very will be his last birthday so basing the celebration around the motorcycle he loves just made sense.

"What other company can you think of where you retire from it and you want to come back as one of your final wishes to help celebrate your birthday," said Tim McCormick, Harley-Davidson.

Before the tour of the museum started, the company gave a gift to the man who's given so much to them: his very own Harley-Davidson leather jacket.

Tom Strehlow Harley-Davidson birthday celebration

"If we get to give him one last big wish, what an amazing gift for us to be able to do that for him," said Mrezek.

It was a warm gesture to support and unite around a motorcycle that has built a family.

Many of the people that rode with Strehlow to the museum didn't know him before the event. Friends got the word out to other fellow motorcycle enthusiasts and the escort crew grew from there.

Happy Birthday, Tom!

Tom Strehlow Harley-Davidson birthday celebration