Cottage Grove man's passion for Harley cut short
Maurice "Frenchy" Fugere loved riding his Harley Davidson so much that the Cottage Grove man brought the bike with him when he spent winters with his son in Florida.
"The bike came before anything in his life," said his wife, Nancy, herself a motorcycle enthusiast.
Fugere, 69, was returning to his son's home near Tampa last Friday after a day out with friends when he rounded a curve and hit a cow standing in the roadway. He was thrown from the Harley and killed.
"I'm sure it was a split-second thing," Nancy said. "He laid his bike down and died instantly."
Fugere was southbound on U.S. 41 in Ruskin, southeast of Tampa, when the crash occurred. It happened at 7:30 p.m., the Florida Highway Patrol said.
Frenchy was not wearing a helmet in the crash, but Nancy said that was a decision they had made together.
"We didn't wear helmets because that was our choice," she said.
Frenchy was a cautious motorcyclist and did not drive fast, his wife said.
"He's a very careful driver," Nancy said. "If he isn't, I give him a punch on both of his sides."
The Fugeres moved to Cottage Grove in 1999 to be closer to family. For the past three years Frenchy spent winter months with his son in the warmer climate. That is where they bought their dog - a Yorkie they named Harley.
Frenchy took meticulous care of the motorcycle, which had an older look to it, Nancy said. The bike's license plate was "NSTLGA." His wife called it the "chromemobile."
Nancy was not home when she learned of Frenchy's crash. She had planned to attend a Minnesota Wild game Friday night, but instead went to United Hospital in St. Paul because of a health issue. She was preparing to leave the hospital when she saw a Cottage Grove police officer and her daughter at the door. Neighbors had helped them find her.
Nancy said she was struggling with the loss of her husband of 43 years.
"It's been real ugly," she said.