Friends and mourners turned out en masse to say a final farewell to Philadelphia Harley-Davidson dealer William J. "Stretch" Smaltz this week.
From 1993 until his death last Friday from kidney cancer, the Honey Brook resident and his wife, Karen, ran a popular Harley-Davidson dealership in Eagle, Chester County. He was even better known as an activist, having helped organize the Philadelphia Ride for Freedom 17 years ago to support POWs and MIAs — an annual event that attracts more than 4,000 motorcyclists, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Two thousand seats at St. Peter's Church in West Brandywine, Chester County, were not enough to hold the mourners, and the procession took a circuitous route so as to pass Smaltz's shop, which was closed in his memory, according to the Inquirer.
Smaltz's services included a 40-mile procession that went past his shop, a Coast Guard flag-presentation ceremony and a luncheon at the Blue Comets motorcycle club headquarters.
Friends told the Inquirer they were inundated with requests from police departments, fire companies and civic leaders after the news of Smaltz's passing.
"They generally don't close roads unless it's the president or the pope," said Mike Tomcavage, 58, of Norristown, a close friend of Smaltz's. "Lots of folks must have been wondering who he was."
Smaltz was a charter member of the Philadelphia chapter of Rolling Thunder, a national nonprofit group dedicated to raising awareness of POW and MIA issues. In 2006, after the Amish schoolhouse shootings in Nickel Mines, Lancaster County, Smaltz helped organize a ride to benefit the victims that raised more than $42,000.
Lorraine Leaming, 60, a fellow Harley-Davidson dealer from Salem County, recalled Smaltz as "very passionate about motorcycles and people.
"Just to show you his magnitude," she said, the president and vice president of Harley-Davidson came from Milwaukee for the services. Smaltz was a past president of the Eastern Harley-Davidson Dealer Association.