Chester Zawalich bought another Harley last week, the 16th motorcycle in his now century-spanning lifetime.
The longtime Brookfield resident celebrated his 100th birthday last week. He has been riding motorcycles for 85 of those years and there's no end in sight.
Chester says that when he's out riding people are often excited to meet such a veteran biker.
"When they find out how old I (am), then the whole picture changes right away. Everyone wants pictures with me with the bike, and to shake hands with me," Chester said. "It's unbelievable."
Chester, who says that he has never gotten a ticket or been in an accident, related another story from the recent past during which he was stopped by a Brookfield police officer who went to check his record and found no prior entries of any kind for him. While checking his record, he also saw Chester's age.
"He said 'You're riding a motorcycle at that age?' Chester remembers. "I can show up anybody with what I can do. When I was younger, I was a nut."
Turning back the odometer
Chester dates his love for motorcycles back to the 1930s.
"It was in their spirits. To me, as long as it had two wheels I loved to ride it," Chester said. "I was a member of three motorcycle clubs. All the other members have died off, I'm the last one."
Motorcycles and Chester made their first acquaintance through a farmer who owned a Harley-Davidson and let Chester take it for a spin.
"He let me take a ride on it. And when he asked me if I could drive it, I said 'Sure, I've watched what you can do with the controls, I think I can do the same thing,'" Chester said.
Chester says that his Harley-Davidsons have been the best he's had, but he hasn't been picky with his bike purchases throughout his long life.
Mr. Fix It
Even now, at 100 years old, Chester not only rides his motorcycle, complete with an accompanying sidecar, but he also still works on bikes. He recently purchased a another Harley and is in the process of fixing it up.
"I bought a lot of Hondas and German motorcycles and English motorcycles. I'd buy 'em, fix 'em up, and sell 'em. That's how I made a living," Chester said. "If I had 'em all now, I'd be a millionaire."
Chester compares himself to a doctor when it comes to automobiles. He didn't go to high school, but learned to be a mechanic.
"When I look at an automobile I think I can always tell what's wrong with it," Chester said.
The last Harley that Chester bought new was in 1973. Ever since, he has only been buying used ones.
A ride down Memory Lane
Chester recalls his late wife Emily as preferring Harleys as well.
"I hate to tell you I even rode a Honda. My wife says 'You better go back to Harleys, it's too quiet,'" Chester said.
The couple shared many memories with Chester's bikes, including a trip when Emily was only 17 on Chester's brand new 1937 Harley, when they stopped at Heaven City in Mukwonago for ice cream.
"She never rode, but she used to get on behind me and I would have her take the handle bars," Chester said.
Emily passed away two years ago. The couple had been married for 73 years.
Many more miles to go
Chester still lives in the house that he built when he moved to Brookfield from Milwaukee 48 years ago.
During the 110th Harley-Davidson anniversary celebration last year, he got plenty of recognition, including signing autographs and giving rides in his sidecar.
Entering his second century of life, Chester is insistent that he has no plans to give up his love for motorcycles.
Your link to the biggest stories in the suburbs delivered Thursday mornings.
Enter your e-mail address above and click "Sign Up Now!" to begin receiving your e-mail newsletter Get the Newsletter!
- Area residents invited to join fight against paralysis
- Ask Now: Too much goose use of Fox Brook Park?
- Brookfield and Elm Grove Police Report: Jan. 29
- Business Notes: Jan. 29
- On The Move: Jan 29
- New Brookfield bus line runs familiar, faster route (1)
- Residents invited to explore Germany
- Elm Grove amends ordinance to protect trees
- Brookfield officials welcome multifamily project on Lisbon Road
- Retired Elm Grove police chief remembered