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,
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
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
“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
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.