Each year as we get older, it seems that we lose more and more good people. 2020 has been a rough year with the coronavirus and all the ripple effects that it has brought. Rider education, not just in Indiana, but nationwide, suffered a tremendous loss with the passing of John Bodeker last month, due to a heart attack.
In the mid-1980s many states passed legislation to create state rider education programs. Michael “Balls” Farabaugh started our training program in 1979, but there was no real support or funding mechanism until 1987.
Balls and ABATE of Indiana lobbied for this to make safety courses in Indiana more accessible and affordable. Balls was on the search committee to select the first Program Coordinator for the Indiana Motorcycle Operator Safety and Education Program. Enter John Bodeker.
John was barely 30, had obtained his master's degree, and was working in the Illinois rider education program and representing the Illinois Motorcycle Dealers Association. In college at Southern Illinois University and Illinois State University, as well as in the program, he had the opportunity to work with some true legends in motorcycle safety. People like Larry Lindauer, Dale Ritzel, Freddie Ford, Allen Robinson, and Packy Rush. Little did John know at that time, that he would become a legend as well.
Since Indiana had no program previously, it was up to John to build it from the ground up. In the early 1980s the four training providers, ABATE of Indiana (Michael “Balls” Farabaugh), Fort Wayne Motorcycle Safety School (Gary Stevens), Indiana State University (Stan Henderson), and the Kokomo School Corporation (Bill Kefaber) had been training a few hundred students a year collectively. That had increased to about 7,000 before John and the program left the Indiana Department of Education.
John was not your typical bureaucrat. He didn’t view traffic safety as a job, or even a career, it was his life. Had he wanted to, he could certainly have climbed the administrative ladder. Results and getting things done were more important to him than accolades or financial gain. Working in rider education and driver education in a career that spanned six decades, he made an immeasurable impact and undoubtedly saved countless lives.
Being a real “people person” and shunning the bureaucracy, is what made John genuine, real, approachable, and a true champion for all motorcyclists. He could work with state and federal agencies, the governor, and legislators then join some bikers at a clubhouse to learn their feelings about motorcycle safety and be equally as comfortable and well-received by all.
His efforts, knowledge, wisdom, and character were assets to many organizations, such as the American Motorcyclist Association, the Miracle Ride Foundation, the National Association of State Motorcycle Safety Administrators, The Motorcycle Safety Foundation, and in particular, the Motorcycle Riders Foundation.
John served on the Executive Committee for the National Association of State Motorcycle Safety Administrators (SMSA) and founded the Indiana Driver Education Association (INDEA) and the Hoosier Motorcyclists’ Roundtable. He testified before numerous bodies, presented at countless conferences, and was recognized with many awards.
John was one of the funniest guys I’ve ever known, and I've known a lot of funny guys. He knew every joke ever told and it got to the point that we only had to use punchlines because we both knew the setup. He spoke fluent sarcasm and had an infectious laugh.
Working with John was something that people found not only efficient, productive, and rewarding, but also enjoyable. You could be stuck performing the least desirable task imaginable, and as long as John was there, you’d find something to laugh about, sometimes to a point nearing hysteria.
I’ve got a ton of “Bodeker stories” and I’ll continue to share those with folks as part of John’s lasting legacy.
As a colleague, a mentor, and most importantly as one of my best friends in life, John Bodeker is irreplaceable.
Ride In Peace, John.