Elburn lost one of its best-known residents with the recent passing of Al Bergquist. Al was many people rolled into one: farmer, family man, motorcyclist, township road commissioner, Republican precinct committeeman and master storyteller, with a personal history filled with great stories to tell.
Al was famous in the motorcycle world. At any cycle event I attend, when asked where I live, I answer â€œElburn, Illinois,â€ and the next question is always: â€œElburn! Do you know Al Bergquist?â€
I first know Al in 1969-70 when I covered Sycamore Speedwayâ€™s cycle racing for local newspapers. Perhaps my happy friendship with Al came through our mutual interest in the world of motorcycles. Al rode and raced motorcycles for many years, was a champion dirt track and enduro racer, and a life member of the American Motorcyclist Association, for which he was also a referee for enduro events. In Alâ€™s â€œflat truckâ€ days, he rode Indian motorcycles for Bob â€œTunerâ€ Hansen, on of motocyclingâ€™s greats, who later prepared bikes for Dick Mann, the greatest all-around motorcycle racer America has ever produced. You had to be tops to ride for Bob Hansen! I have been told Al could have been U.S. pro motorcycle champion but he had a farm to run, and, as much as he loved racing, farm and family came first. He was proud of having raced against many of Americanâ€™s best, and remained friends all his life with his great competitors, Wayne Pierce of DeKalb, Bill Baird (six-time U.S. National Enduro Champion) from Sterling, Ill., and the great Dick Mann.
When racing became part of his past, Al turned to long-distance road riding, touring much of the U.S. with Joan on their Honda Gold Wing trike. He was a rider almost to the end, and was well-known and respected for his motorcycle expertise by several generations of riders.
Many were the stories and many the cups of coffee Al shared with friends, neighbors and motorcycle travellers across the tables of Elburnâ€™s Kountry Kettle Restaurant. He was a man whose opinions were as strong as the coffee he drank.
He will be sorely missed.
Dennis C. Ryan