Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 4, 2013

ROCKWELL — Before they jumped onto his Harley-Davidson motorcycle, Jim Richardson asked Pat Crowell one more time.
“Pat, are you going all the way to Blue Bay?”
Crowell replied with an enthusiastic yes, before posing her own question to Bob Burton, who planned to follow Richardson’s bike on his Kawasaki.
“If I fall off, will you pick me up?” she asked.
On her 90th birthday Wednesday afternoon, Crowell took her first motorcycle ride ever, holding Richardson’s waist all the way to the Blue Bay restaurant in Salisbury — about an 8-mile trip from First Baptist Church in Rockwell.
Why Blue Bay? Crowell wanted catfish for her birthday dinner.
“I do love catfish,” she confirmed — all 112 pounds of her.
A big crowd gathered in the church parking lot to see Crowell off before getting in their cars and joining her at the restaurant.
“She’s a very spunky young lady,” Faye Garrett said.
Crowell already has determined that a photograph of her on Richardson’s motorcycle will be her new profile picture on Facebook.
Daughter Terry Kindley complained her rather hip mother was on Facebook before she was.
“She’s a special, special lady,” Kindley said.
Riding a motorcycle wasn’t exactly on Crowell’s bucket list. The idea of her taking a ride started at least a year ago, during conversations among members of the Friendship Sunday School Class.
She heard about the rides and exploits of Richardson, Burton and Joe Hancock, and one thing led to another. It just seemed perfect timing to provide Crowell’s first motorcycle ride on her 90th birthday.
Richardson’s motto: “Any time you get on a motorcycle, it’s a good day.”
Although she has always been active and athletic, Crowell never considered herself the risk-taking type. Her late husband made up for that. He was a fighter pilot in the Air Force and even a stunt pilot on occasion.
“He sure loved to fly, he would do anything,” Crowell said. “I’m used to people taking chances — just not me.”
She remembered having a chance once to ride on the back of a college student’s motorcycle, but her husband put the kibosh on that, not trusting the young driver.
Crowell’s daughter, Terry, who lives in Gold Hill, rides horses and could be considered another risk-taker in the family.
“This means I’m going to put her on one of my horses tomorrow,” Kindley promised.
During her husband’s 24-year career in the Air Force and later, Pat Crowell became an accomplished golfer. She still golfs regularly with friends in Charlotte.
Over her playing years, she has scored holes-in-one four times.
Crowell lives mostly with Terry in Gold Hill, though she frequently drives to Charlotte for golf and to spend time with her son’s family. She joined First Baptist Church of Rockwell about two years ago.
“These are wonderful people,” Crowell said, surprised at the number of folks in the parking lot. “I think it’s great. I just hope I don’t fall off.”
Her former church, Woodlawn Baptist in Charlotte, is having a 90th birthday celebration for her Saturday. Barbecue is the main menu item, not catfish.
Kindley described her mother as one of the best Christian women she knows. When Kindley was growing up, so many of her friends would go to Crowell for advice that Terry thought her mother should hang out a shingle for her own counseling practice.
“She is truly my idol,” said Kindley, a retired Mount Pleasant teacher.
Crowell received plenty of advice and encouragement before her ride.
Mary Richardson, Jim’s wife, told her, “Just make sure you lean the same way he’s leaning. You don’t want to go the wrong direction.”
In the days leading up to her ride, Crowell said, she was “half-and-half.” Part of her was dreading it, and part of her couldn’t wait.
But when the time came Wednesday, she was all smiles and had plenty of waves for everybody. There was no problem getting on the bike.
“I know if you can play golf, you can swing that leg over,” Richardson said over his shoulder. In an instant, they roared off.
Crowell already is thinking about her 100th birthday and what she might do to top Wednesday’s motorcycle ride.
“Jump out of an airplane,” she said, with a glimmer of seriousness.
This girl needs a nickname.

“Catfish” might fill the bill.

Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263,or