116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Iowa motorcycle legend John Parham ‘touched a lot of people’s lives’
Alison Gowans and Makayla Tendall
Apr. 23, 2017 2:46 pm, Updated: Apr. 26, 2017 11:09 am
ANAMOSA - Jill Parham says her husband was 'one of those people that everybody just wanted to talk to.”
'He had so many friends in so many states and so many countries. He touched a lot of people's lives,” she said.
John Parham, founder of J & P Cycles motorcycle company and the person responsible for bringing the National Motorcycle Museum to Anamosa, died Thursday at the age of 62, following a prolonged battle with pulmonary fibrosis.
His wife spoke with The Gazette on Saturday.
She said her husband would most regret missing the opportunity to make motorcycle enthusiasts and entrepreneurs out of his two grandchildren. He already had passed a penchant for riding down to the couple's son Zachary, who was 16 years old when he rode with his father for the first time to the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota.
Zachary remains vice president and general manager of J & P Cycles' retail center in Anamosa.
Jill and John Parham met when they were 16, she said. They were married for 43 years.
Many of their early years together were spent on the road traveling to more than 40 events each year to promote their business, which eventually was sold to Motorsport Aftermarket Group, which moved the company's core operations out of Iowa in 2015.
Jill Parham said her husband did his best to support up-and-coming entrepreneurs in the motorcycle industry, often buying their parts and promoting them before any other company.
'He wanted to give them a chance, the chance that we had when we were struggling, because we struggled in the early days, too,” she said.
In 2010, a lung transplant helped extend John Parham's life. He was an advocate for organ donation, blogging about his experience, recording a YouTube video to promote organ donation, printing brochures to distribute at motorcycle events and speaking publicly about the topic.
'I really have an opportunity to reach a lot of people,” he told The Gazette in 2011. 'I've been very blessed. I'm just trying to give something back.”
Members of Iowa motorcycle clubs said Parham was very generous in supporting a variety of causes.
'John was a very generous supporter of our group both financially and with giving us space in their warehouse for Jones County Toys for Tots,” said Ray Ropa, who heads up public relations for the Teufelhund Veterans Group in Anamosa, a group of veterans who rides and does charity work for veterans together.
Mike Smith, president of the Cedar Rapids Eagle Riders, a part of Fraternal Order of Eagles Aerie 2272, said his group also worked with J & P Cycles a couple years ago.
'They helped us a bunch,” he said. 'J & P Cycles was a huge supporter of ours. They were terrific.”
John Parham reached so many people that Jill Parham said she has been overwhelmed by the number of condolences she has received since his passing.
She said her husband endured his body's chronic rejection of his transplanted lung for years and eventually it began to affect his kidneys and finally his heart.
It affected the couple's riding, too.
Jill Parham said she didn't feel she was a 'skilled rider,” and usually let her husband steer on their trips on his motorcycle.
'After he got his disease he had to get a trike,” she said. 'We actually kind of joked this year, (saying), ‘As much as you're feeling bad, you're not going to be able to drive that trike.'
'He said, ‘So you want me to ride behind you? I'll probably be OK with that if you listen to me a little,' ” Jill Parham said, laughing.
John Parham was at the museum in Anamosa every day until last November, his wife said. The museum is creating a special Exhibition Development Fund in his honor and details on a May memorial service are to be released on the National Motorcycle Museum Facebook page at a later date.
l Comments: (319) 368-8516; firstname.lastname@example.org