Susie Whalen | Reporter

SCRANTON—Harley Davidson motorcycles, a glass of brandy and the fortitude to experience as much life as possible, has been reason for living for Wilbur Hatfield. From Catskill, N.Y., Hatfield, 96 years young, rolled into the streets of Scranton Sept. 1 on his 1994 Harley, with the assistance of his friend and personal chauffeur, Dave White, to visit family and to reminisce about his boyhood.

Hatfield was born May 30, 1914, to Mary Ella Hopkins Hatfield and Floyd Hatfield, by the St. Claire River, near Lake St. Claire, Mich.

He was 13 years old when he left Detroit, Mich., to come to Lyndon to live with Ralph and Lucille Silvers. It was there he attended a country school and found his education was several years behind in comparison with his other classmates.

“I started out in the sixth-grade in Kansas and my teacher discovered I didn’t know very much,” Hatfield said. “For being 13 years old, I actually had the education of a third-grader. That’s where my formal education ended. The world became my book and I learned job skills by hands-on experience.”

He returned to Detroit at age 16 where he lied about his age and got a job for the Chrysler Corporation. He married at 18. With one world war ending and another beginning, the automobile plants became manufacturers of anti-aircraft guns for battleships. He wasn’t eligible for the military service because he was married and had a family. Unfortunately, the marriage didn’t last and he moved on.

Taxi cab driver, carnival worker and long haul trucker were just some of the jobs he held until a friend introduced him to millwright work. This became his chosen career – from working on concrete plants to submarines.

He married again and this marriage was successful. He and his wife, Gertrude, had two daughters, Cheryl, now deceased, and Diane, who lives in the Detroit area. He also has an adopted daughter named Rita, who also lives in Detroit.

He and his family moved to Catskill in 1962, where he continued to do millwright work. His job took him all over the country before he retired at age 65.

But, this has been no rocking-chair retirement for Hatfield. He continued to travel the world – to New Zealand, South America, Austria, Italy, Switzerland, and all over the United States. His love of snow skiing took him to slopes in most European countries. He rented a Harley in Hawaii before it became a state and drove all over the island.

It was after his wife of 40 years died, that he made the decision to purchase a motorcycle. Hatfield was 66 when he purchased his first Harley Davidson motorcycle. In 1980, he traveled cross country from Catskill to Portland, Ore., and back on his beloved Harley.

In 1987, Hatfield made an upgrade and bought a new Harley in Washington. He drove the bike back to Catskill and, unfortunately, wrecked the bike and suffered a broken leg. After a year of rehabilitation, he pursued his love of the easy ride and continued to travel across the country, documenting his travels and sharing his adventures. In 1994, he purchased the bike that he still rides today.

Hatfield said he has ridden every Harley he has owned across the United States from coast to coast four times.

At 96, Hatfield’s physical condition has somewhat diminished – his vision is impaired and he lost his driver’s license due to this affliction. He also isn’t strong enough to hold up the 300-pound Harley. This is where his chauffeur, Dave White, aids him in his quest to forge on.

Hatfield sold the 1994 Harley to White on one condition – that White drive Hatfield on the Harley wherever he wants to go. White is accommodating and obliges with an open heart, Hatfield said.

“I ride on the back of the Harley, and these old bones feel the bumps of crossing railroad tracks and bridges,” Hatfield said. “There isn’t much meat on my backside anymore. I’m sitting on bones.”

And it was such a trip that brought him from Florida --– where he had recently flown to meet White – to visit his family in Osage County. While here, he stayed with his niece, Ellen O’Donnell and her husband, Jerry, of Scranton, and visited his great-nieces Dena McMahon and Katie Sayler, both of Lyndon, and their families.

Hatfield is somewhat a celebrity in the community of Catskill, as he has his own television show. The show, called “Wilbur’s Travels,” airs on Friday mornings on the local channel. He also shares his love of traveling through videos posted on various websites.

He also bowls every Tuesday and Friday, with a 142 average.

Hatfield attributes his longevity to “letting the brain control your body instead of the body controlling your brain.”

“Life is a strange situation,” he said. “It’s up to you to make the best of it.”

Hatfield and White will leave Scranton after Labor Day, traveling to Nebraska to visit more relatives before heading toward the East Coast and home.

He said he plans to return to Scranton for his 100th birthday, on his Harley.

Hatfield’s love of life is inspiring, but the love of his life, a 1994 Harley Davidson, is what keeps him traveling.