PLATTSBURGH - As Michael Carpenter looked at a sea of motorcycles in the parking lot of North End Harley Davidson, he couldn't help but be overcome with emotion.
"It's awesome. Just awesome," said Michael.
It wasn't a huge sale for the dealership. It wasn't even a casual get-together for biking enthusiasts. It was a ride with a purpose - to honor Michael's brother, the late Richard L. "Dick" Carpenter of Cadyville.
Dick was at hunting camp downstate when he suffered a massive coronary attack last December, claiming his life at the age of 58.
"Ryan [Dick's son] and I were with him when he passed away," said Michael. "It was hard."
However, out of their grief, Dick's family and friends joined to put together a benefit ride in his honor last Sunday. The event took months of planning, with the help of friends Larry G. and Tammy J. Duquette, Cadyville, but was well worth the effort, said Michael.
"We've been working since February right on through 'til now," said Michael.
"He did a lot for this community and he meant a lot to people," said Larry. "He did so much for everybody around here and this is just one way we can repay it."
Dick's wife, Linda C. Carpenter, wiped away tears as she looked at the crowd of more than a couple hundred bikers. The 85-mile ride - which included driving by the Clinton Correctional Facility where Dick worked for 26 years - meant a lot to Linda, especially since she knew money raised would help the heart unit at CVPH Medical Center.
"He would be so proud and honored to know how many people loved him," said Linda. "And, what better way to pay it back than to have the money go locally to [the heart unit]."
Dick's daughter, Ashley Arel, said her father was smiling down on everyone as the weekend's earlier cloudy, rainy skies gave way to a bright, sunny day.
"He's here," said Ashley. "He's definitely here and he's got a big grin on his face."
Though the amount raised by the first annual Dick Carpenter Memorial Ride is still being finalized, Duquette said approximately $4,500 in donations was generated by the event.
"It feels good to be able to give back to the community for such a worthy cause in honor of one of my dearest friends," said Larry. "He helped so many people while he was here and this way he will continue to do so for many years to come."
Linda thanked Larry and Tammy for their support in Dick's memorial ride and for their friendship over the years.
"Dick and Larry retired the same day from the prison," said Linda. "We've been friends for years and we've been riding together for years. They're our best friends."
Those who missed the ride but would still like to make a donation in Dick's memory may do so by sending checks in care of the Dick Carpenter Memorial Ride to the Foundation of CVPH, 75 Beekman St., Plattsburgh N.Y. 12901. Donations may also be made on-line at www.cvph.org and by clicking on the Foundation of CVPH link.