September 22, 2014

Elyria
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Elyrian driven by tragedy, fueled by faith

Wayne Dieckman is not your ordinary grandfather. If the motorcycle alone didn’t make that clear, the tattoos, pierced nipple and Harley Davidson gear should.

Dieckman, 60, is best recognized in the Elyria community where he lives by his three-wheeled custom Harley Davidson motorcycle.

STEVE MANHEIM / CHRONICLE
Wayne Dieckman, of Elyria, sits on his tri-wheel motorcycle. He is a Vietnam veteran and founder of the suicide and drug prevention effort Motorcycle Ministry.

He also is known for Motorcycle Ministries,”which he started four years ago.

Affectionately is known as “Dieck” (pronounced Deek), he decided to take a personal tragedy and turn it into a calling. Dieck’s second wife, Elizabeth, killed herself after an argument with her mother nearly four years ago.

“She was the best of me,” Dieck said. “If I can help just one kid, then that’s huge. Something good has got to come out of her suicide.”

Dieckman started the Motorcycle Ministries shortly after his wife died and since then has been dedicated to educating kids about suicide and drug prevention.

While Dieckman is not a minister, he does have a strong faith.

“You’ve got to have a higher being to hold on to,” he said. “Or something anyway. I don’t really bring religion into it much, but it’s helped me over the years. If kids are thinking about using drugs or are thinking about suicide, I do suggest they try praying.”

Dieckman, a Vietnam veteran who served during the Tet Offensive, remembers losing friends to drugs during the war and again losing friends to drugs in the years since. He decided his ministry would include drug prevention as well.

“When I talk to kids about suicide, I try to make them see that while their pain will be over, they need to think about how much they hurt those they leave behind,” Dieck said. “I’m on the other side of this issue and the kids often don’t think about that — who they’re leaving behind whether it’s friends, parents or brothers and sisters.”

Dieckman hands out his Motorcycle Ministries business cards to people he meets, fellow veterans, public servants — anyone who may know someone who needs help.

“Most kids nowadays don’t need you to talk to them,” Dieckman said. “They just need someone to listen to them.”

Dieckman also hops on his bike to play Santa Claus in local neighborhoods and places including The Blessing House and area nursing homes. His friend, Pam Baker of Elyria, helps out.

“The kids sing for Santa and then we hand out candy canes to each child,” Baker said. “Dieck will try to make this a yearly thing he does. He’s a good man, a good neighbor. He helps me out a lot.”

Dieckman has given talks at schools in other areas, and he hopes to begin doing the same thing here. He’s also willing to talk at church youth groups, juvenile hall, even jail if someone just needs to talk.

“A lot of kids are scared of cops, or don’t trust cops, their teachers or guidance counselors and feel like they can’t talk to their parents,”  he said. “I pull up on my motorcycle with my beard and my gear and I don’t know — they just find it easy to talk to me.

Maybe because I’m not in a position of authority over them. Plus — I’ve been there.”

One of Dieckman’s tattoos reads “Died in Vietnam, just not buried yet.”

He is very frank about his personal history.

“I didn’t cry for a long time after Vietnam, but when Liza killed herself, I cried all the time,’’ he said. “It was scary feeling that emotion again. It’s been incredibly hard to be without her, but I keep going. That’s what you’ve got to do. Keep on paddling through life.

“You don’t give up. Tomorrow will be better.”

When it comes to talking about drugs, Dieckman remembers a fellow soldier who jumped up yelling that he couldn’t be hurt because he was stoned.

“He was immediately shot and killed,” Dieckman said. “He was too high to know what he was doing, and he died because of it. I’ve lost several friends over the years to drugs, so I try to impress upon the kids that it’s a stupid road to go down. Go talk to some adult you trust about it, pray about it, go to the library and research what it does to you. Kids think drugs are fun and they’re not.”

Dieckman likes being recognized for his motorcycle and hopes word of his ministry will spread quickly. Anyone who feels like talking can call his cell phone at (440) 281-1630.

“It’s about gaining people’s trust,” Dieckman said of his work. “One of my tattoos is a black widow spider with a half a heart over it. Liza had a tattoo of the other half. I know what they’re going through.”

Contact Alicia Castelli at 329-7000 or metro@chroniclet.com.