Leslie "Les" Ely

By Dave Howe

Ralph Delmar reminded me of yet another Brother who died less than a year ago that we should remember on the website and at LOTP...Les Ely.

Affectionately known to many as "Lester the Molester" and self-identified as "Chewbacca", after the Star Wars character as a reference to his looks. He was a large man with a big "keg", long bushy red/brownish hair and beard, an easy, constant smile, quick sense of humor and the male equivalent of a Katy Wilson laugh. Very "rough around the edges" but for those lucky enough to make the effort, it was quick and easy to get through that to the good man inside the big ugly body.

As far as I can tell Les was not a NTNOA member, at least not in the few old rosters I have going back to '86 but he was usually at LOTP and participated in lots of club activities. I doubt he was a "joiner" and it would probably have been an economic hardship for him most years. But he was always around, smiling and laughing and always helping someone with a bike problem, or to dispose of any surplus beer. He was at all the "Spring Erection Parties", birthday parties and the dozen or so NTNOA meetings held at my place.

He was a good friend to many of us, was generous, fun, funny and had a huge, good heart.

He knew Brit bikes very well and had worked as a Brit bike mechanic for many years and at Perry's shop too. I don't know if BSA's were his favorite but he always had them and lots of parts, and worked on many of them.

Les was a guy who had a tough life with many medical problems as long as I knew him, finally being beaten down and taken out by a variety of things best described as just an old, worn-out, broken down body that finally gave up the fight. I didn't see Les the last year or two before his death earlier this year, as I usually just saw him at bike events and he had pretty much stopped coming to those. His wife, Missy, got sicker, earlier than Les and I know taking care of her was a priority before her death a couple of years ago.

He called me a couple of times during the last two or three years to talk a minute and to ask me to "come over sometime". I never seemed to find the time although I knew it would be a good visit if I did. I wish I had. When will we learn to not postpone these important visits?

My best memories of Les are when he was being...Les. At my 50th birthday party he showed up with a closed box punched through with air holes. He was carrying it very carefully and treating it like it was full of live Rattlesnakes. When I got the nerve to open it I found a stuffed toy of Sylvester the cat with a little note telling me he wanted to make sure I got a little p***y for my birthday! Sylvester still hangs in my shop as a (now more important & valuable) reminder of Les Ely.

Les couldn't afford a nice bike but he had an old 2-stroke Jawa (that he correctly pronounced 'Yawa') that he kept running long past it's prime. That was his daily rider and LOTP bike. One late Saturday night he rode off searching for beer to replenish his cooler. A couple hours later we saw and heard the Jawa way across the shoreline, in another campground futily searching for the rally. He finally found us but it took half the night.

Another time after having been "over-served" on Saturday night - all night - he slept it off on the ground in front of his tent, unable to make it all the way or maybe thinking he was 'in' the tent. Mid-afternoon Sunday a deputy-sheriff drove slowly through the campground just to take a look. Les' camp was up the hill and the deputy spotted Les face down in the leaves & dirt. He had been unwilling to move to his sleeping bag earlier when we tried to move him. The sheriff thought there had been big trouble in the camp and he had a dead body on his hands. He walked slowly up to the inert Les, took a look, then nudged him with his boot, cautiously checking for signs of life. Les rolled over with his big beard full of a night's worth of leaves and growled like a hibernating mama Grizzly with someone messing with her cubs! The deputy jumped back about six feet, slowly shook his head and disappeared in his deputy car, never to be seen again, at least by Les or us.

Later that Sunday Les joined Jack & Katy, Betty and me, and a several others who stayed over until Monday. We had a pot-luck dinner and enjoyed the quiet sunset and campfire. Lots of stories, lots of jokes, lots of laughing. After having been thoroughly prepared to dislike Les, the women all couldn't help falling in love with the big, rough guy with the heart of gold.

Godspeed Les...we miss you.