At Bike Week in Daytona, Florida, in 2001, Jack Feather had a brilliant idea. In his line of vision were a horse drawn hearse and a number of motorcycles. Might the 2 be combined into a new type of funeral conveyance? Indeed, they could.
But why? There are, according to Jack’s business website (tombstonehearse.info), 9 million veterans over the age of 65, more than 11 million cycle owners, and 2 million police and fire fighters. Isn’t it possible that they, their families, or some forward-looking funeral directors would be interested in using a new type of vehicle for an individualized funeral? Indeed, it is.
I called Jack when Ruth & I were in Arizona earlier this month, and he graciously invited us to his place to see his new business, Tombstone Hearse & Trike. We knew about Jack thanks to to our involvement in the rebuilding of a 19th century hearse for the 150th commemoration of Abraham Lincoln’s burial in Springfield, Illinois, in May, 2015. I’ve done 3 blogs about this project.
The hearse was constructed at Blue Ox Mill School for Veterans in Eureka, California, and Jack was in charge of completing this historic hearse, which included painting it. I wondered how he got involved and now I know. P. J. Staab, the funeral director in Springfield who oversaw all and now owns this hearse, bought a motorcycle hearse from Jack and is successfully using it for local funerals.
At an age when most men are beginning to look forward to retirement, Jack was reinventing funerals. In Pennsylvania. He reinvented himself too by moving to Tombstone and starting a novel new business, Tombstone Hearse and Trike. It has been very successful. He has sold and built almost 100 see-into hearses that can be attached to a motorcycle for a personalized funeral cortege. The next one he will build goes to England. I asked Jack if he is happy in his new home, and he pointed to the landscape surrounding his new business. “I wake up to this every morning,” he said, completely satisfied.
I asked him if he had regrets about becoming involved in The Lincoln Project, and he said he thought about it almost every day and that it had been difficult but satisfying, in retrospect. I looked around his interesting office and asked what he would save if the place caught on fire. He thought this over for a minute and said, “That portrait of General George Patton.” I turned slightly to see Michael Gnatek’s framed Patton at Bastogne. Jack didn’t explain why it was so important to him. I asked him if he had any news about Lincoln’s hearse. Ruth & I hadn’t seen it since last July when P.J. insisted that we climb aboard so he could take our picture. Jack told us that it might be headed to The Smithsonian and put on permanent display. Indeed, it should be.