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One last ride for Rudy

Rudy would have loved it.

Close to 80 Kaua‘i bikers joined an emotional Sunday cruise around the island recently to carry out the last wishes of a friend and fellow biker who died on May 12.

Quiet and soft-spoken, Rudy Somera suffered for years from serious health problems, including diabetes and high blood pressure that eventually took a toll on his kidneys. Since his kidneys failed five years ago, he required four hours of dialysis treatments three times a week

Despite his health, Somera never lost the love for motorcycles that began in the 1960s on O‘ahu, where he rode with a group called the Aliis.

On Kaua‘i, every Sunday that he felt up to it, the Lihu‘e man would fire up his Harley-Davidson for a leisurely ride with his friends in the Sons of Kaua‘i.

“Rudy loved riding. That was his joy and happiness,” said his wife, Elena. “He looked forward to Sundays. He’d get his vest and things ready Saturday night and get up early Sunday just to get ready for the ride.”

Because of his condition, there were many Sundays when his friends had to ride without him, so they were especially glad this Mother’s Day to see him show up at their meeting place, the 7-Eleven in Lihu‘e.

It would be the last time. Four days later, he was dead.

It wasn’t kidney problems that caused his death, however. In fact, he had just told his wife his doctor said everything was going so well they wanted to cut down his time on dialysis.

“He was so proud telling me about how well he was doing,” she said.

But a few days later he failed to pick her up from work and didn’t answer the phone at home. A friend drove her home where she found him unconscious but still breathing in the stairway, where he apparently had fallen.

In the emergency room, an MRI revealed severe bleeding in his brain from the impact of the fall, and doctors told her nothing could be done.

He was kept on life support long enough for family and friends to say goodbye. In his hospital room, close friends Jack Wilhelm and Paula Rosa read a letter he had written to his biker friends two years ago, spelling out his exact wishes when he passed away.

He wanted to be cremated, the letter said, and have his ashes buried at Lihue Cemetery. Some ashes were to be kept in reserve and taken by friends for one last Sunday ride. He asked that the group stop at his favorite places and that Wilhelm sing at every stop.

On May 21, what seemed like an endless line of bikers kept pulling into the 7-Eleven parking lot to carry out Rudy Somera’s last requests. Some people said they were amazed by the number that showed up.

But Bob Holmes, one of those who rode with him on Sundays, said he wasn’t surprised by the turnout.

“It was a bunch of Rudy’s friends who had ridden with him over the years,” he said.

The group included members of many of Kaua‘i’s motorcycle groups as well as representatives from several motorcycle shops, Holmes said.

In a generous gesture, Tim Lach, owner of Street Legal, donated the use of several bikes for some of Rudy’s friends who had already shipped their bikes off-island for a Memorial Day ride on Maui.

Holmes said he counted 68 motorcycles at the group’s first stop in Hanalei, and as the ride continued on up to Koke‘e, more bikes joined in while others dropped off. A final collective estimate was set at 80 riders.

As requested, the group made stops at Hanalei, Waimea, Koke‘e and Brennecke. At each stop, as everyone joined hands, Wilhelm sang a Hawaiian song, Rosa said a prayer and the group shared a moment of silence for their friend.

It was an emotional and touching experience, the participants agreed.

Elena Somera said she feels so thankful to everyone involved, especially Jack and Dede Wilhelm and Harold and Paula Rosa.

“I don’t have the right words to express how I felt that day and how much I appreciated what they all did, even though they weren’t really family,” she said. “I didn’t expect that many people to show up. I didn’t know he had made that many friends while he was riding. It was amazing.”

She does know one thing for certain. Rudy would have loved it.

“He would have been so happy, proud and fulfilled to have all his wishes granted.”

• Rita De Silva, special sections editor, can be reached at 245-3681, ext. 241, or via e-mail at rdesilva@kauaipubco.com.

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