DTI hosts a Silence Thunder

Saturday September 19, 2020

by Craig Richards

LNN USA

Prince George - When Downtown Thunder Inc founder Dino Lunsford launched his non-profit 501C, he did so envisioning a free venue to bring motorcyclists, car, and truck enthusiasts together. Anyone who knows Lunsford personally also knew to expect these “Cruise-ins” to a mini Sturgis.

 

Downtown Thunder Inc. began with hundreds of attendees in Old Towne Petersburg before anchoring their events in Hopewell last year. And while the COVID 19 restrictions hampered the 2020 season, one thing could not stop it completely – family.

 

On Saturday September 19th, DTI hosted its first cruise-in of the year at Colonial Harley-Davidson. But this year’s first event had a deafening silence in the thunder. Just weeks before, the DTI family lost one of their own and had a second in serious condition in separate events. Roy Cox, a DTI Board of Director, had died and DTI member Chad Wiggins was battling the challenges of recovery from a recent accident.

 

Amid the turbulence and because of their devotion, DTI decided that the first event of the year was to become both a memorial and a support system.  The Saturday event was renamed the first annual Roy Cox Memorial with the proceeds going to aid in Wiggins medical expenses.

 

Speaking about Cox’s passing Lunsford said, “It left a huge void and we’re all still in shock. I’m particularly in shock. He was really special to us.” Gone from Saturday’s event was the mountainous figure of a man, his signature booming voice, and the contagious laughter of their cherished friend.

First on the scene, constantly working the event, Roy was a staple of the DTI events.

 

Lunsford added, “If we needed something moved – a building moved, it didn’t matter what it was we’d say Roy and just point.  As long as you fed him steak, he is gone, he’s good to go.” That statement bought a moment of laughter to Lunsford and Marlon Dance a longtime friend of Cox.

 

When asked what Roy would think of today Lunsford did not hesitate. “He would love it. He’d love the American flag hoisted high above the fire truck right over the stage.”  DTI had also placed the flag right over Roy’s original boots and fire fighter’s gear on stage. Dance concurred, “There’s nothing here Roy would like any better than that American Flag up there – nothing!”

 

The love of America was at the heart of Cox’s life, from his patriotic spirit right down to his Captain America themed bike. “Roy loved Captain America,” Lunsford said. “To us he was the real Captain America.  He was extremely patriotic.  He loved our Country.”

In the close-knit DTI family even Roy’s first bike has a revealing back story. Lunsford recounted the story. Roy had just told Dino he bought a bike. Dino recalls his first encounter with Roy’s purchase as a “filthy, nasty bike in desperate need of servicing.” He could not believe Roy bought one until he saw it. Dino then road the bike to his shop. The day of the first ever Downtown Thunder event temperatures were topping 100 degrees. Dino, unbeknownst to Roy, got his work done early, serviced the entire bike then cleaned and polished it up.

At the time of the event Roy was setting up in the parking lot while the DTI crew snuck the bike over into the middle of the massive group that had formed. They called Roy to the stage and had one of their buddies ride the bike up on stage and presented it to Roy. The end of the story?

“I made him cry like he’s doing that to us this week.” Lunsford said. It was a story he had planned to share from stage Saturday but was unable to. The picture of that day with Dino and Roy sporting his big infectious smile was developed into a poster and hung on the Colonial Harley Davidson wall Saturday – a fitting tribute to a man who loved his newly restored bike, but more so his country and his friends.

Dance was feeling the deep loss of Cox as well struggling to overcome the emotions of the moment while attempting to share a personal story, eventually walking away from the table. Determined to share his love and respect for Roy, Dance returned to share a personal tribute. He remembered selling Roy his first gun when he was 21 years old, a 586 Smith and Wesson. Roy never parted with the firearm. It came up in discussions from time to time in the frequent days Roy and Marlon got together over the years. Dance also remembered the unique heart of his friend. Roy went to Sturges with a trailer borrowed from Marlon. Always quick to appreciate and value of his friends, he returned the trailer with a little something extra. Roy had picked out a simple stainless steel second amendment ring purchased specifically for Marlon; a gift quite fitting from a man who loved both family and country. “Anybody that had anything to do with Roy knew he was a giver. He gave all the time. He was one of my best friends ever, almost for my entire life. He will be sadly missed.” To Dance, Roy Cox was not like family – he was family.

 

Lunsford added a more heavenly appreciation of their departed friend. “It was like Roy just fell out of the sky one day, like my avenging angel. If I had an event, if I needed something done, or if there was someone unruly or something like that you didn’t even have to lift a finger or say a word, Roy already remedied the situation.” This “Avenging Angel” with “remedying” power brought another round of laughter to a particularly reflective interview.

 

The event, as with previous Downtown Thunder Cruise-Ins, was deemed a success. Monies raised went to the medical expenses of DTI crew member Chad Wiggins. A large crowd turned out in support of the work, to enjoy in the festivities and to remember a “Real American.” There was all the traditional “legal” shenanigans and tom foolery one has come to love and expect at a Cruise-in. But there was a bit more to Saturday’s event.

 

Cox’s death had managed to do what no-one else found possible. It brought an ominous silence to the Thunder. For a moment in time Cox’s passing had brought a deeper purpose to the event and its participants. The atmosphere of celebration still existed, but this time it was the celebration of a singular life. And in its essence, a celebration of life itself.

 

For more about Downtown Thunder Inc., the Downtown Thunder Cruise-Ins or how to support this organization contact them at https://www.facebook.com/DowntownThunder/

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