Statesville mourns dealership owner who died in crash

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Friends and customers are mourning the owner of two Harley-Davidson dealerships in Statesville and Salisbury, who died in a motorcycle accident on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Don Tilley, owner of Tilley Harley-Davidson, died Friday while riding back from a dealership awards banquet in Nashville with his wife, Robinette, and friends.

Robinette Tilley was critically injured in the wreck, said the couple's son, Derek Tilley. Robinette was riding on the back of her husband's motorcycle.

Derek Tilley said his mother already had surgeries for a compound fracture in her arm, and for her pelvis. Her next surgery, Monday, will be on her neck. The family is concerned she may suffer paralysis.

"We would like everybody's prayers that she would come through that without any kind of paralyzation (sic)," said Derek.

Sunday, customers paid their respects at Tilley's dealership. Black bows hung from the doors, and flowers laid against the windows outside. A book for condolences laid on a table inside surrounded by flowers and framed wedding photo of the couple.

Ben Stockner remembered buying his motorcycle from Tilley last year.

"I remember whenever I come up here to get this bike, he put the first 8 miles on it and said he wanted it," said Stockner, "but I bought it before it went to him."

Those little touches made all of Tilley's customers feel special, said another customer, Chuck Bralley.

"He tries to be really personable with his customers, always has," said Bralley, "and we hate we lost him."

Another customer laid a flower at the door an hour after the dealership had closed, and shared the front of the local paper. "Superman rode a Harley," it said.

Derek Tilley shared that his father had been racing motorcycles and stock cars for more than 50 years, and even worked on Richard Petty's pit crew when he was young. His love for motorcycle racing grew into successful dealerships in Statesville and Salisbury.

He made a lot of friends and drew a lot of customers along the way.

"You know he loved The Lord from the way he treated other people," said Derek, "and the way he interacted with people."

While Tilley's children gather at Mission Hospital in Asheville to be close to their mother, they are buoyed by the outpouring of condolences and prayers from friends on social media and elsewhere.

"God speed, @don_tilley," said Kyle Petty on twitter. "Don taught me how to ride long distance, love Harleys & most importantly how to be a friend."

One of Tilley's favorite charities, Victory Junction, posted their condolences on Facebook. "We are heart broken after the news of our long time friend and supporter Don Tilley's passing," the post read. It was accompanied by a picture of Tilley with Kyle Petty, and referenced the annual cross-country charity motorcycle ride that raised money for the Victory Junction Gang camp, a camp for children with terminal illnesses.

"My family is so blessed," said Derek. "I look at all the people who loved my dad and all they people showing their support to us -- it's overwhelming sometimes."

The family is hold a memorial service for Don Tilley on Sunday, September 7, at Statesville Sr. High School, at 6 p.m. Anyone interested in riding to the service together on their motorcycles can meet at Tilley Harley-Davidson at 5 p.m.

The dealership will also host a memorial motorcycle ride on Saturday, September 20, to raise money for Victory Junction Gang. The ride will be part of the annual Biker, Blues, and BBQ festival to benefit the Salisbury VA Hospice Center. You can sign up for the ride here:

The family asks that in lieu of flowers, to make donations to Victory Junction Gang Camp in Don Tilley's memory. Donations can be sent to Victory Junction Gang, 4500 Adam's Way, Randalman, NC 27317.


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