Har­ley rider was ‘way be­fore her time’ in the ‘30s and ‘40s

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - - News Obituaries - By Mark Belko Mark Belko: mbelko@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1262.

When Mon­ica “Bon­nie” Geyer took her first driver’s test back in the 1930s, she didn’t get be­hind the wheel of a car. She jumped on a mo­tor­cy­cle. And aced the test.

So be­gan Mrs. Geyer’s love af­fair with the mo­tor­cy­cle.

With fiery red hair and bril­liant blue eyes, Mrs. Geyer was a pioneer of sorts, one of the first women to drive alone across the coun­try, on her beloved Har­ley David­son, the only mo­tor­cy­cle she would ride.

“She just had a love for it. She was one of the first,” said Robert Borner, her son. “She was an amaz­ing woman, way be­fore her time.”

Be­sides go­ing coast to coast, Mrs. Geyer ex­plored many other ar­eas of the coun­try on her Har­ley. She toured New York, New Eng­land, and parts of Canada. She counted among her fa­vorite rides jaunts through the Al­legheny Moun­tains and the Blue Ridge Moun­tains.

Mrs. Geyer even did stunts — stand­ing on the mo­tor­cy­cle’s seat with her arms raised, for ex­am­ple — as a mem­ber of the Orig­i­nal Fly­ing Boot, a group that trav­eled the coun­try on what were­known as gypsy tours.

In a 2014 in­ter­view with Thun­der Roads Mag­a­zine, Mrs. Geyer ex­plained her love for the road.

“I al­ways had a wild­ness in me. The mo­tor­cy­cle and I got along just fine. I was never hap­pier than when I was out rid­ing. I just loved get­ting out to see. See ev­ery­thing I could,” she said.

Mrs. Geyer died Nov. 9 in Las Ve­gas. She was 99.

Born May 20, 1918, in Aliquippa, Mrs. Geyer lived most of her life on Pitts­burgh’s North Side. After mar­ry­ing Robert W. Borner, the cou­ple raised their fam­ily in the Manch­ester neigh­bor­hood.

Mrs. Geyer started rid­ing mo­tor­cy­cles when she was 16. She had a fond­ness for Har­leys, once turn­ing down an of­fer of a free bike from a com­peti­tor.

She con­tin­ued to ride after her two daugh­ters were born but stopped after the birth of her son, Robert, her third child.

Soon after that, Mrs. Geyer went to work for the H.J. Heinz Co. in the ad­ver­tis­ing depart­ment, a job she held for some 30 years be­fore re­tir­ing.

“She was a gra­cious lady. She was charm­ing. She would get on the right side of you quick,” her son said.

Mrs. Geyer, who passed along her love of mo­tor­cy­cles to her chil­dren, once ex­plained the se­cret of her longevity to her son.

“She said, ‘You know, Bobby, I never drank and I never smoked and I didn’t even swear un­til you were born,’” he re­lated with a laugh.

Mrs. Geyer lost her hus­band, Robert, in 1970. She later mar­ried Ben­jamin Geyer, who also pre­ceded her in death.

Al­though Mrs. Geyer moved to Las Ve­gas a cou­ple of years ago to live with a daugh­ter, she never strayed from her Pitts­burgh roots, of­ten ask­ing about the North Side. She was a diehard Steel­ers fan.

While Mrs. Geyer gave up rid­ing the mo­tor­cy­cle in the late 1940s, that didn’t stop her from get­ting around. She con­tin­ued to drive a car un­til she was 94 years old.

At one point, in her later years, she was re­quired to take the driver’s test again. This time, she drove a car, but­the re­sults were the same.

“She passed with fly­ing col­ors. The in­struc­tor said she was one of the best driv­ers com­ing in do­ing that test,” Robert said.

In ad­di­tion to her son, who lives in Ross, Mrs. Geyer is sur­vived by two daugh­ters, Marg Biesi­ada and Monie Riggi, both of Las Ve­gas; a step­daugh­ter, Sharon Geyer, also of Las Ve­gas; and grand­chil­dren, great-grand­chil­dren, and great-great-grand­chil­dren.

The fu­neral Mass is at 10 a.m. Wed­nes­day at St. Bon­aven­ture Catholic Church, 2001 Mt. Royal Blvd. in­Shaler.

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