LaRue: Terminally ill Edgewood man fulfills wish to enjoy open road

larry.larue@thenewstribune.comApril 23, 2014 

Donovan O’Malley and Brandi O’Malley sandwich their father, Jeff, before a final motorcycle ride last week. Jeff, who is terminally ill, got to ride in a motorcycle sidecar.

PHOTO COURTESY OF THE O’MALLEY FAMILY

Jeff O’Malley wasn’t the the morbid type. He just recognized reality, accepted mortality and wanted to live his last days on his terms.

They called it congestive heart failure, and doctors had been treating O’Malley for it the last nine years. Last week they took him off the latest medication because, they told his family, it was doing more harm than good.

O’Malley, 47, thought he might have a few more weeks but wasn’t sure. A year ago, the Edgewood man took to his Facebook page for a rare, short rant, typos be damned:

"I hate this dam heart of mine I wist that they could just find a transplant and get it over with all ready"

There was no transplant in the subsequent 14 months. O’Malley and his grown children, daughter Brandi and son Donovan, had come to accept what appeared inevitable.

Jeff O’Malley died early Wednesday morning, Brandi said.

Last week, Jeff O’Malley decided he wanted one last ride on a motorcycle, with other bikers.

A few decades ago, O’Malley was a biker, a big man with his share of tattoos, a Harley-Davidson and an open road ahead.

He told his daughter what he’d like to do one more time, and she knew exactly whom to ask.

She just had no idea how quickly Louie Galarza would respond.

Brandi O’Malley is a new employee at Louie G’s Pizza in Fife, which Galarza owns. Last week, the day her father mentioned his last wish, Brandi asked Galarza if he had any ideas.

He did.

“I put it on my Facebook page and the pages for Louie G’s and Mental Itch Records,” said Galarza, who owns both businesses. “Brandi put it on her page and together, we probably reached 12,000 people, looking for a bike with a sidecar.”

Tracy Getty has a motorcycle with a sidecar, a Russian Ural.

“I’d taken 478 people for rides in the five years I’ve owned it, from every one of my friends to complete strangers,” said Getty, who lives in Puyallup. “My neighbor saw the Facebook post and forwarded it to me, and I got back to Louie.”

Galarza got to work.

“Brandi asked, and in a couple of days we put it together,” Galarza said.

She put out a call to her father’s friends, while Galarza summoned a few friends of his own who ride. In the end, more than 40 folks showed up last Friday with their motorcycles, starting at Galarza’s pizza place.

Brandi got her family there.

“My grandma, uncle, aunt, my little brother and boyfriend and my dad were all there,” she said. “I rode on the back of a friend’s bike. My brother and boyfriend drove in a car and stopped to halt traffic a few times.”

Jeff O’Malley showed up wearing a kilt.

“I told him he was sidecar passenger No. 479, but my first wearing a kilt,” Getty said. “His spirits were high, but he was pretty weak.”

The procession went all the way to Tacoma, down Ruston Way and back to Fife. Getty gave her passenger the full sidecar treatment. On a couple of hard turns, she “flew the sidecar” — lifting it completely off the ground.

“Jeff loved that,” Getty said. “He had a big smile on his face.”

Along Ruston Way, O’Malley told her he’d been in the Navy, began identifying ships they saw. Then the conversation grew more serious.

“He talked about his daughter, and about all the things he’d put off doing,” Getty said. “It was definitely the most important sidecar ride I’ve ever given. I’ll never forget it.”

“It brought tears to my eyes, watching him,” Brandi said of her father.

Jeff O’Malley saved his thanks for Facebook, and wrote this:

“Even though we haven’t always seen eye to eye, I have always loved you and always appreciated you. I am proud of how far you have come and I know losing me is going to be hard, but I want you to be my phoenix that rises from the ashes.

“If I was able to get one last tattoo that’s exactly what I would get — a phoenix. The fact that you stepped up to the plate and made this ride happen for me means so much to me. I want you to know that you will always be my sug.

“Love, dad”

Larry LaRue: 253-597-8638 larry.larue@thenewstribune.com

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