By Jody Weisel
My immediate response was, “How?”
She said, “He went to the Indy Motorcycle show, felt sick, checked into a hospital and succumbed to pneumonia and kidney failure.”
“But, I’m in Indy,” I said, as though it couldn’t be possible for someone so important to me to be taken when I was so close that I could have been there to protect them.
Laroy Montgomery (it is like Leroy only with a “Laa”) was my oldest motocross friend. Older than my longtime racing buddies Tony D, Gary Jones or Ketchup Cox. I met Laroy when I was racing in Texas about 40 years ago. We raced in the same class together for several years, but he was more than that to me. We both raced out of a Hodaka shop in Richardson, Texas, called Big R Cycles (owned by the Bradshaw family). Laroy and I teamed up together with the rest of our crazy tribe of North Texas kids to race at Mosier Valley, Pecan Valley, Strawberry Hill, Lake Whitney, Azle and Paradise Valley.
In that weird world of 1972, Laroy was like my mechanic and I was like his older brother, but as with most of the rider/mechanic relationships of the early days, Laroy raced in the same class as I did. There were no corporate bonding between rider and mechanic—we were sewn from the same cloth. And, most of the time he was faster than I was. It’s strange how the world works, the slower guy moved out of the little Texas towns to California to become a racer and his buddy stayed home. It might have been the other way. But, all in all, we stayed together, even when we were apart.
After I left North Texas, Laroy and I kept in contact. Whenever he wanted to come to California, I lent him my spare room (and told him he could stay as long as he liked). When he went into the U.S. Navy (just to get out of Texas), he would come up from the San Diego Naval Base on every leave and go with me to Saddleback, Carlsbad or Mammoth Mountain. We would lend him clothes, bikes and entries. I still remember the time we went to Mammoth Mountain and talked him into racing at the last second. I pulled some string to get him an entry. Ketchup gave Laroy his pants and boots. I gave him my jersey and helmet. He raced a Can-Am 250. Laroy had a great time, finished ninth and I still have the photo of me working the pit board for him.
In 1979 he decided to buy a new bike and he stayed with me when I was testing the ill-fated 23-inch front wheel CR125. Even though he was there when Al Baker and I cut the frame in half and welded it back together to get the bike to turn with a 21-inch wheel, (and I told him not to buy one), he went back to Garland, Texas, and bought one anyway. When I asked him why he did what I advised against, he said, “Since I watched you guys saw the frame he half, I figured it would be fun to have a bike that he could saw in half also.” He loved to tinker.
After his stint in the Navy on the USS Blueridge (which didn’t work out for Laroy or the U.S. government), he went back to Texas and got married (which also didn’t work out).
Still in love with motorcycles, he started road racing (something that I couldn’t get him to do when I was splitting my time between motocross and road race back in 1971, 1972, 1973 and 1974–although he was always willing to work late to fix any cylinders that I seized at Fort Hood, Greater Southwest International Airport, Austin Aquafest, Tulsa dragway or the old Dallas Motor Speedway). Laroy not only became a good road racer, but he was on the board of the CRRC and CMRA road race organizations from 1989 through 1993. In line with his tinkering, he built a series of single-cylinder four-stroke road bikes of his own design. Over the years Laroy won eight CMRA or CRRC endurance road racing Championships.
During all this time, he came out to visit for a couple weeks each year. Lots of the the time he came out because he was working for the Suzuki Endurance road race team (Team Hammer) or as Suzuki rider Michael Martin’s mechanic. He would often drop in, saying that he was on his way to Laguna Seca, Willow Springs or Fontana, only to come back after the race was over so that he could go to the motocross races with me for a couple weekends. I always had a spare room for Laroy to stay in and no matter how long he stayed, he never over-stayed his visit. He was low-key, relaxed and hilariously funny.
After gigs as a road racer, road race mechanic and pipe builder at D&D and M4, he finally moved to SoCal in 2004 to go to work running Graves Motorsports’ pipe manufacturing facility. Graves runs Yamaha’s Super Sport road race team, but is better known to motocrossers because of the Supermoto team of Brandon Currie, Doug Henry and Mark Burkhart. Every weekend, when he wasn’t back in Texas with his fianc Martha, he came out to Glen Helen to watch the motocross races. He didn’t race, although we did get him to suit up once and take a few laps. He loved the three laps that his arms could take. The last time I saw him was at Glen Helen, three weeks before we were to meet again at the Indy Show.
If you are around this earth long enough, everyone you know will leave before you (even though they are younger). And so it is with Laroy Montgomery (1956-2008), who succumbed on February 16, 2008, to respiratory distress. He was my friend. He was a member in good standing of the motocross tribe. He was one of us.
To his brother, daughter, three grand kids, Cousin Steve, fiance’ Martha and the old gang from Big R Cycles, I offer my sincere condolences–not just from me, but from everybody who every met Laroy.