Mary Gundrum, 96

Mary Gundrum (nee Trapp), 96, of Slinger, passed away peacefully on Thursday, June 16, 2011, at Serenity Villa in Slinger.

She was born Nov. 15, 1914, in Beaver Dam to Conrad and Katherine (nee Brassinger) Trapp. Mary was united in marriage to Roman Gundrum on July 4, 1953, at St. Peter’s Catholic Church in Beaver Dam.

She was the second of three siblings. She had an older brother, Jim, and a younger brother, Mike. Jim would later become owner of the local Harley Davidson dealership which he operated until the early 1960s. Mary took an interest in motorcycles because of Jim and Mike’s involvement in the business. Right after high school graduation in 1934, Mary got the bug and became a full-fledged biker chick and member of the Beaver Dam Motorcycle club which was recognized many times by the American Motorcycle Association.

Mary was the first woman in Dodge County to own and ride a Harley bike. She was one of only a handful of women riders in the Midwest and maybe even the entire country at that time. Although she was never big on self-promotion, she did meet and make friends with nationally known woman biker Dot Robinson.

Mary worked her day job at the Weyenberg shoe factory on Madison Street in Beaver Dam during the week. But every weekend was dedicated to the open road racking up thousands of miles riding all over Wisconsin and parts of Illinois, Iowa and Upper Michigan. Mary never traveled without her trusty camera at her side capturing timeless memories. She compiled and documented over 20 years of AMA and club events that occurred every weekend throughout various locations in the Midwest. Her scrap books contain hundreds of candid shots portraying the Harley-Davidson owners lifestyle of that era. The Harley-Davidson museum has over 150 individual pictures for their archives. Some of the shots are on display in the museum, on the website and in printed promotional materials.

“When I decided to ride motorcycles my brother Jim set me up with an old one lunger to practice on. When I was ready to ride on my own he sent me over to the barber shop across the street.” The barber was also the Beaver Dam Justice of the Peace. He took one look at Mary and said “You’re Jim Trapp’s sister aren’t you? That’s all I need to know. Here’s your license.”

Mary held a valid Wisconsin driver’s license until the time of her death but she never drove a car. “My husband tried teaching me once or twice. We went on a few back roads near the farm but it didn’t do anything for me. It was actually quite boring looking out over the dash behind the glass. I preferred the feel of the open road … everything was up-close and near you.”

After her marriage to Roman Gundrum on July 4th in 1953, Mary continued to ride occasionally. “It came in quite handy if I needed to run into town for grocery items or visit family in Beaver Dam.” But as the major highways became more traveled, she and Roman decided it might be best to give it up. So in the summer of 1961, she sadly sold her Harley 125 to a young man for $75.

Even though she no longer rode, Mary still stayed in touch with many of the “old gang” to reminisce about their days as members of the Beaver Dam Motor Cycle Club. Eventually, she became the only living member of that group.

Mary focused her life on being a mother to her son Rick and housewife to her husband Roman from their house on McKinley Avenue in Hartford . M a r y served as a Cub Scout Den Mother and became good friends with the neighbors and the newcomers who replaced the old. Mary was always there to help out with gardening or cooking tips.

She also witnessed three generations of neighborhood children grow into adults and kept in touch with many of them. It was not unusual for one of those young individuals to pay her a visit whenever they came back to the neighborhood.

 In the summer of 2003, during Harley’s 100th anniversary, a distant relative read a newspaper article about Mary’s days as a Harley rider. She contacted Mary and asked if she would like to go for a ride on her husband’s bike. So one Saturday morning two Harley’s arrived at her son’s house. Mary was on the back of one of them in a black leather jacket and motorcycle helmet. “Now that was cool. It sure brought back a lot of great memories. The ride was a lot smoother than what I remember on my old bikes. This is the only way to travel.” Her son offered to take Mary back home in his car, but she wouldn’t think of it. “No you’ve got things to do and they’re heading right past my house anyway. I can just ride on the back of the Harley.” So back on went the leather jacket and helmet and away they went.

The very late years of her life, Mary did some travelling making three trips to Ixtapa and Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. She visited relatives in San Diego and Denver. The trip she cherished most was travelling to Rome in 2003 at the age of 89 to witness Archbishop Timothy Dolan receive his Pallium from then Pope John Paul II.

In the summer of 2009 she became a resident of Serenity Villa in Slinger. It was a very trying time in her life, having to give up a home and neighborhood that she lived in for 52 years. Thanks to the staff, Mary thrived those last two years of her life. She enjoyed the company of the staff and residents, and the visits from many including the day care kids, clergy, family and friends. She thought of her roommate Loretta as the sister she never had.

She had a positive outlook on life. Seldom did anything ever get her down but if it did she always found a way to put a positive spin on it.

Mary is survived her son, Rick (Lois) Gundrum of Slinger; two step-grandchildren, Toby (Amy) Brandenstein of Oconomowoc and Mindy (Pat) Mayo of De Pere; four great-grandchildren, Hannah, Jonah Brandenstein, Ian and Kali Mayo; other nieces, nephews, relatives and friends.

Mary was preceded in death by her parents; husband, Roman in 2000; brothers ,Jim and Mike Trapp; sisters in-law Luella Trapp, Grace Trapp, Hilda Bodden, Isabelle Schaefer, Irene Kienast, Margaret Jacklin, Marie Schweder, Gertrude Gundrum and Delores Gundrum; brothers in-law, Rich Bodden, Oscar Schaefer, Al Kienast, Benjamin Jacklin, Wilfred Gundrum, Edmund Gundrum and Harry Schweder.

Mass of Christian burial for Mary will be held on Thursday, June 23, at 6 p.m. at St. Kilian Catholic Church, Hartford with the Rev. David LaPlante officiating. Family will greet relatives and friends on Thursday at the church only from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Interment at St. Kilian Cemetery, Hartford.

Shimon Funeral Home is assisting the family.