EARLTON — Vincent Manna was a happy-go-lucky guy who would help anyone in need, and a beloved 5-year member and leader of The Freedom Riders Motorcycle Club. This weekend, the group held a memorial run in his honor on the anniversary of the day he died in a motorcycle accident.
Manna died at age 60 in an accident a year ago from Saturday when he drove his motorcycle off the road and into a field, and broke his neck.
“He held on to his bike and it landed on him and broke his neck,” said Daniel Boehlke, a member of the Freedom Riders and a good friend of Manna’s.
“He lived with me for three years,” Boehlke said. “He saved my life once.”
Boehlke recalled how one day Manna stopped by his house and Boehlke took an antibiotic that threw him into anaphylactic shock.
“He called 911 and saved my life,” Boehlke said. “He died not too long after that.”
The memorial run for Manna started at 10 a.m. with members of the Freedom Riders and Amazon Nation Motorcycle Club, which donated food and other amenities for the memorial, driving off on roughly 50 bikes as they left Brennan’s Pub on State Route 81. Owner Tommy Brennan is a longtime friend of the club. Bikers rode to Oak Hill Cemetery, where most of Manna’s ashes are buried, and then down County Route 21 to where he lost his life.
“The memorial is going really well,” Boehlke said. “There are a lot of people here, which, for out here in the country, is pretty good.”
A run like the one organized in his honor is the sort of thing Manna organized for the club as its road captain.
“[Manna] is very dearly missed,” said Ray Fisk, of Athens, a 17-year member of the Freedom Riders. “This is a family, so we may have had our differences of opinions, but he will always be missed.”
Boehlke and other members who carry some of Manna’s ashes with them on runs have many stories about Manna.
“If you broke down, you could count on [Manna] to come help you out,” Boehlke said.
“I met him 23 years ago when I was building my bike,” said Bill Rulison, a club member from Medusa. “He was a great guy who was always positive.”
Rulison’s ex-wife and club member Katie Snyder, from Medusa, recalled when she had a heart attack and Manna came to see her.
“He said take care of you and gave me a kiss,” she remembered. “That was the last thing he said to me.”
“He was a very loving and giving person, who would bend over backwards for you,” Snyder continued. “He spoke what was on his mind. He was a one-in-two-billion type of guy.”
Both Snyder and Rulison remember Manna telling them to always love and take care of each other.
“Even though we are not together anymore, we still love and care for each other,” Rulison said.
The memorial had a sign-in fee and a Chinese auction to raise money for Manna’s favorite charity, The Veteran’s Miracle Center, in Albany.
“He loved to ride his bike and he loved this club,” Boehlke said. “He donated his time and money for this club all the time.”