FORT MADISON – Geared up with a helmet and a huge smile, Russ Wenke sat in the sidecar of Jim Luder’s Harley-Davidson motorcycle Thursday afternoon, ready to cross one more motorcycle ride off his bucket list.
Though years ago he used to ride his motorcycle with a group of friends about three times a week, Wenke, 63, of Fort Madison, has not been able to ride for a while. In 2015, Wenke was diagnosed with Bulbar Palsy, a type of ALS, and now uses a wheelchair.
Luder, a chaplain with HCI Hospice Care, knew Wenke missed riding and promised to take him out for a ride. Rules prevented Luder from keeping that promise until he retired and went through official HCI Hospice Care volunteer training.
“It’s going to be fun,” Wenke, who lives at The Madison, said in a statement shared by HCI. “Any chance to get out of the building and get outside is like a sense of freedom for me.”
Wenke, Luder and Wenke’s aide, Christina Gersema, rode the motorcycle for about an hour around Keokuk and Rand Park. Luder wanted the ride to be around roads familiar to Wenke, originally from Argyle.
Wenke has a farm in Argyle, which he visited about a month ago. He spent most of his life farming his 280 acres, and served as a volunteer firefighter. Wenke’s nurse, Michael Breese, said Wenke still was able to do some chores on his farm just 18 months ago.
“When we first started caring for him, he’d take his walker out to do chores and used every kind of adaptive resource he could to stay on his farm,” Breese said in HCI's announcement of the ride.
Despite the obstacles Wenke faces from ALS, he said volunteers like Luder and HCI Hospice Care help him live a good life.