Family honors East Troy vet’s memory with memorial trip
By Vanessa Lenz
Jim Bottoni lived his life full of love for family, country, community and the freedom of the open road.
A year after his death, those who knew him best are making sure that love lives on with the Jim Bottoni “Ride to the Wall” memorial motorcycle ride set for Saturday, June 1.
There isn’t a better way to pay tribute to Jim, who was killed while driving his motorcycle last June after he was hit by a teen driver, said his oldest son Chris Bottoni.
“The memorial ride is a way to continue my dad’s legacy,” said Chris. “He had passion for family and friends, his motorcycle club and helping others.”
Participants are invited to meet at 11 a.m. at Al Smith’s Saloon, 2878 Main St., East Troy.
Riders will travel to Ray and Dot’s Tap, 6351 W. Grange Ave., Greendale, and will leave at 3 p.m. for their final destination, the Southern Wisconsin Veterans Memorial Cemetery, 21731 Spring St., Union Grove. The ride will return to Al Smith’s Saloon at 4:30 p.m.
Bob Bottoni said the ride was designed especially for his brother Jim.
“He loved his family dearly, as well as his friends and communities,” said Bob. “We chose to start the run in East Troy, continue to Greendale, where Jim grew up, and pay our respects to not only Jim, but all veterans interned at the Southern Wisconsin Veterans Cemetery,” Bob said.
The event will feature a 50/50 raffle and chances to win an Apple iPad. Raffles will be held from noon to 3 p.m. at Ray and Dot’s Tap and at 4:30 p.m. at Al Smith’s Saloon.
All proceeds will be donated to East Troy Food Pantry and the Paralyzed Veterans of Wisconsin.
Jim lived in East Troy for 36 years before his death and was an active volunteer.
He donated money to local food pantries through his involvement with his local chapter of the Vietnam Veterans Motorcycle Club, according to Bob.
“Jim was a very humble individual. He always and I mean always put others first ahead of himself,” said Bob. “There wasn’t anything that he wouldn’t do for anyone that needed help… If Jim could speak to me now, he would say how proud of the fact (he was) that we chose to help a community organization, as well as a veterans organization.”
Jim enlisted in the Marine Corps from 1969-71 and served as a Military Police Officer during the Vietnam War.
“He volunteered for service in Vietnam, but was denied due to the fact that I was serving in Vietnam in a combat zone,” said Bob.
Chris said motorcycles have been a part of his father’s life for as long as he can remember.
“My dad has owned quite a few bikes throughout his life. The last Harley he owned was back in the ‘80s. He had to sell it to continue to support his family,” said Chris.
He said his father didn’t own a bike again until the early 2000s when he purchased a Yamaha touring bike, but it just wasn’t the same as a Harley.
“He owned that for several years, until one day when my dad, mom, Bob and myself were sitting on Bob’s deck in the spring of 2007,” said Chris. “My mom wanted to have a fence installed around their backyard, and my dad wasn’t so keen on it. After some back and forth banter, I said to my mom, ‘If dad lets you get your fence, can he have his Harley?’ It was kind of a joking statement, but my mom said yes.”
A couple weeks later, there was a fence around the Bottonis’ backyard, a 2003 100th anniversary edition Harley-Davidson Electra Glide Ultra Classic in the garage and a Yamaha for sale.
Shortly before his death, Jim rode his beloved Harley to Washington D.C. to see the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall.
“His first exposure to the wall was with myself in 2008,” said Bob. “I led Jim to the men that I served with that are listed on the wall. He was very moved by this and made it clear that he would ‘Ride in memory of those who died and who served in Vietnam.’”
Jim, the fifth generation in the family to work on the railroad, retired from the Canadian Pacific Railroad after 39 years.
Jim was survived by his wife Karen, two sons, Christopher (Tammy) and Jeffrey and two grandsons, Preston and Pierce.
“My dad was a big kid. He enjoyed life,” said Chris. “He was the type of guy that would be outside on a nice spring day, planting hundreds of annuals around the house, and getting his tomato plants in the ground. Then he might head over to one of the local establishments for an afternoon beer. He was always there if any one of us needed him. He loved stopping over to see the grandkids at my house.”
Chris and Bob said they plan to continue the memorial ride each year and select different community-based organizations, as well as veterans’ organizations as beneficiaries.
The ride is open to anyone who would like to participate.
“Friends, family, locals, or anyone that likes to be a part of something,” said Chris. “We are welcoming bikes, muscle cars, hot rods, convertibles, or whatever you have.”
For more information, contact Bob at (262) 441-3311 or email Chris at firstname.lastname@example.org.