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A GARTRA Legend Passes On

On October 31, 2013, Mr. Don Lilley (GARTRA's only Lifetime member) passed away. Don was an adventurous soul, and often captivated groups of listeners at GARTRA's Hooch Dual Sport events while he reminisced of his adventures and experiences.  We will most certainly miss Don.

Mr. Donald E. Lilley is renown as a woodsman and as an off-road motorcycle sportsman. For many years he has also volunteered his skills to benefit many communities. In 1992, he was a founding member of the Georgia Recreational Trail Riders Association (GARTRA). The organization was formed in response to the possibility that the Whissenhunt Off Road Vehicle riding area in the Chattahoochee National Forest near Dahlonega, GA might be closed due to a lack of maintenance and management. He took the lead in revising the trail layout to reduce erosion and improve the riding experience of the public. His skills in trail layout and his many hours of work were so valuable that he was awarded the Trail Blazer Award by GARTRA. His many years of service were also rewarded with a Lifetime Membership in GARTRA. He is the only recipient of these two awards.
In 1994, he was asked to serve as an official of the International Six Days Enduro in Tulsa, OK. This is the “World Series” of international off-road motorcycle competition during which 600 racers from all over the world come to compete for the world team championship. For many years he competed in off-road “enduro” races sanctioned by the Southeastern Enduro & Trail Riders Association (SETRA). He served as the Enduro Scorekeeper for the organization. He also served as master of ceremonies for the group at their annual awards banquet, wearing his signature flowered Hawaiian shirt, recalling his days of living in Hawaii in his younger years. There are many tales of his hardiness while travelling to and competing in the long distance off-road motorcycle races. He travelled to the races riding his large touring motorcycle while towing his racing dirt bike on a trailer behind it. He would sleep in his sleeping bag on the ground at the race site. Tales are told of him waking up on the morning of the race and shaking the frost and snow off his beard. After the race that was exhausting to many, he would load up his racing bike and ride the touring bike back home.
He was a skilled fisherman and crafter of fishing fly lures. He had a unique way of travelling to his fishing sites. He would attach an axle with two bicycle tires to the center of his kayak and tow it down the road behind his small dual sport motorcycle. On occasion he had to stop and explain to a law enforcement official that it was perfectly legal. Even when he became too ill to go fishing, he continued to make fishing lures as gifts for the children of his friends.
Don was a graduate of the Ranger School, State University of New York, College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Wanakena, N.Y. For many years he made an annual pilgrimage to the campus for reunions with his classmates and the faculty. Many times he made the 2,300-mile journey on his motorcycle, camping along the way. He once traveled the 1,150-mile journey home in a single day on the motorcycle.
In 1997, a group of volunteers was asked to produce an off-road charity motorcycle ride to benefit the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation of the US. One of the first calls went to Mr. Lilley to be the Trail Boss of the event, to lay out and clear the trail. He accepted without hesitation. In 2004 the event became affiliated with the Dream House for Medically Fragile Children in Lilburn, GA. When the volunteer group created a Volunteer or the Year award, Mr. Lilley was the first recipient. The award was later named The Don Lilley Volunteer of the Year Award. Over the past 17 years, the event has raised over $550,000 to benefit children’s charities.
Don leaves a legacy of service to family, friends, competitors, classmates and charitable works. He will be deeply missed.