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The Lane Ranger: Message for holiday, other days is to look twice --- save a life
Joey Ledford - Staff
Sunday, May 28, 2000

Memorial Day will have a dual meaning for Kathy and Patrick Malone this year.

The holiday falls on the fifth anniversary of the death of their son Lance. On May 29, 1995, the 25-year-old, dark-haired, blue-eyed aircraft mechanic was on his way to a pool party on his new Yamaha 650 motorcycle when a truck made a left turn directly into his path.

The truck driver, who said he never saw the motorcycle even though its headlight was on, was eventually acquitted of misdemeanor second-degree vehicular homicide. The crash occurred on Young Road in DeKalb County on an otherwise perfect spring day.

There's another milestone --- very much related --- in the lives of the Malones, who live quietly on a rural road in Gwinnett County. They have just distributed their 100,000th bumper sticker.

"Look twice --- save a life. Motorcycles are everywhere," says the purple sticker, now commonly seen in metro Atlanta and occasionally spotted even in distant lands.

The couple and their surviving sons, Bryan and Sean, have used the stickers as a way to channel their grief into a positive statement as well as a lasting memorial to Lance, who rode motorcycles all his life.

The message isn't original, said Patrick. Bryan spotted it on a black pickup and then Sean saw the same truck. Kathy finally tracked the original to a physician who had printed only a few.

Even before she found the doctor, she had decided to start printing and distributing them herself. 

Through motorcycle shops and clubs, especially ABATE of Georgia, literally thousands of people have contacted the couple to request stickers.

"I thought I had been dealing with my grief fairly well," said Kathy, who took time to talk before dashing off to the post office to mail still more stickers. "But we will always be aggrieved parents until the day we die. You never completely heal. It is always there."

Recent illnesses have made Kathy wonder if she wants to continue the motorcycle safety crusade. Her pituitary gland shut down and a series of panic and anxiety attacks followed. 

"I'm not sure, after talking with the psychiatrists, whether they are keeping the wound open or not," she said of the stickers. "We only have 5,000 left out there (in the garage). Five years might be long enough."

Their work and personal expense has been recognized. They received an award in March from the state Department of Public Safety for their commitment to communicating the important safety message.

On new motorcycles, the headlights automatically come on when the engine starts in an effort to make them more visible to motorists. Ironically, said Kathy, the prevalence of daytime running lights in cars has lessened the effectiveness of the motorcycle lights.

"They are kind of disappearing again, whereas they were sticking out before," she said.

Even though the stickers sometimes revive happy memories, they also revive the pain, particularly when tragedy strikes again.

"A couple called me about a year and a half ago. They had given their friends some stickers, and he had them on all his vehicles," she said. "A week after he got the stickers, he got killed on his motorcycle.

"It used to be like somebody made a hole in my chest and pulled my heart out," said Kathy. "There's still a hole, because Lance isn't there. (The stickers) keep that hole open. I think maybe it's time to help that hole close up."

Patrick, however, said he plans to continue the work even if Kathy retires.

"I'm feeling the need to continue doing it," he said. "She was doing it all up until the time she got sick." 

Kathy said it might be easier to go on if they discontinue their tedious practice of hand-stamping the back of each sticker, all 100,000 of them, with the inscription that tells so much:

"Printed in memory of Lance Robert Malone, Killed 5-29-95. Age 25. Need mo --- 770-979-1763." 

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