Bikers, locals mourn the loss of Rally's 'First Lady'
BY WENDY PITLICK, Black Hills Pioneer March 01, 2005
STURGIS - For 64 years Pearl Hoel, welcomed bikers into her home as they gathered to celebrate the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.
This weekend bikers in heaven, along with Rally founder J.C. (Pappy) Hoel, welcomed the first lady of the Rally with open arms. Pearl Twila (Kinney) Hoel, 99, died on Sunday, Feb. 27, at 10 a.m. after several days in Sturgis Community Hospital. Funeral services for Hoel will be held Saturday, March 5, at 2 p.m. in the First Presyterian Church in Sturgis.
Hailed as the "one remaining constant" of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in a recent letter written by Sturgis Motorcycle Museum director Pepper Massey-Swan, bikers from around the country mourned the loss this weekend. With her generous nature and vibrant spirit, friends and family said they will miss the woman who proudly stood by her husband, Sturgis Motorcycle Rally founder J.C. (Pappy) Hoel, and helped make the annual motorcycle event possible. Moreover, many bikers said they will miss the stories Hoel was so fond of telling about the early days of the motorcycle rally.
"Because she was there from the beginning, and because this event was ... her passion, her gift of recall and her ability to share oral history (was) constantly in demand," wrote Massey-Swan in a letter recommending Hoel's induction into the South Dakota Hall of Fame. "Her grace and character taught us the importance of welcoming people into our community each year, and made us proud to be a part of our amazing history."
"It's the passing of an era," said longtime friend and Jackpine Gypsies member Neil Hultman. "She was there when the Rally first started and she has seen the change. Not too many people have been able to do that. She has seen the good sides and the bad sides, just like everyone else. But she always had positive things to say about the event. She was a one of a kind lady that was always interested in what was going on with the Rally."
While she was interested in the Rally, Hoel also stayed involved with the racing events right up through the 64th annual motorcycle event in 2004. Every year, since the Rally's inception in 1938, Hoel opened up her home to bikers and cared for them while they stayed in Sturgis. Even into her 90s, it was not uncommon for Hoel to welcome 20-30 bikers at her home each year for the festivities, held the first full week in August. Occassionally, Hoel would even join them in their celebrations as she watched the Jackpine Gypsy races from her special parking space at the Sturgis track.
Last year, friends remember, she blessed the half-mile event by taking a ride around the track with another "old biker."