November '19

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88 THE SHOP NOVEMBER 2019 knowledge and down-to-earth attitude that got his attention. Terry's family and Jessi became friends and went to races together. Terry and Jessi started as good friends and would run into each other several times a year at the races. After Terry got divorced, he and Jessi started getting closer and became best friends. One night at King of the Ham- mers they talked about being a couple. They took a chance, and Terry says it's the best thing he ever did. "I had a lot of issues. I was military police and had some PTSD and former combat issues that I struggled with," Terry explains. "I'd never had anybody care about me enough to care about helping me, and Jess was there for me through the good and the bad. She helped me realize my stuff, get help and be the better me. She believed in me." Afterward, he says, she became "a light and a drive." "She wanted me to be the best me I could be. She also wanted to be the best her she could be. And, together, we were the best us. We were gonna do things for this world. The goals I had with Jessi didn't seem pos- sible before Jessi, but with Jessi, everything was possible." Jessi's humorous outlook was one of her traits that had the greatest impact on Terry. One day while riding motorcycles to Mil- waukee, rain forced them to take a break in Kansas. They decided to kill some time in a Cabela's store. "We played in the kids toy section, tried on clothes, hung out in the dressing room for a while. Played catch in the aisles with a football. She smelled ever y—and I mean every—single candle in the whole damn store," Terry recalls. "Then, we finally got to sleeping bags and she couldn't just read the box—she had to lay them on the floor and get in each one to feel the fluff. By this time a security guard was flanking us. He was attempting to do his job, but he was no match. She pulled out this stuff sack and she just jumped into it. He walked by, shook his head, gave up and left! We got another one out and had a quick potato sack race to the checkout. Who knew you could have so much fun shopping for a stuff sack?" Terry is leaning on the lessons he learned from Jessi to deal with her passing. "If this had happened three years ago, I wouldn't have been able to handle it. But now I have the tools, the confidence, the way to handle this—to do good with it. I want to continue her work through The Jessi Combs Foundation. Its mission is to educate, inspire and empower the next generation of female trailblazers. Its guiding principle is the ques- tion, 'What would Jessi do?'" The things that were closest to Jessi's heart, Terry explains, were not her accomplishments. "It was more like when we'd go to a car show and she'd teach a little girl how to weld. And later they would send her a letter. Or someone she taught to weld would come back a year later and show her a picture of what they'd built and say, 'I've changed my career and changed my life. You gave me the power to do this.' Those were her true accomplishments." AVA WOLFF Ava Wolff, owner of Gray Wolff Motors, is an auto mechanic by day and a bike builder by night. She didn't pick up a wrench until age 19, but once she did, it became her life. When she met Jessi, Ava was just starting to get into motorcycles, doing custom work and learning how to MIG weld. "I discovered Jessi's name because I couldn't find any welding gear that fit me," Ava says. "The first set of gloves that fit me had her name on them." Ava waited in line at the LA Auto Show to meet her. Jessi took the time to talk and invited Ava to her TIG welding class. "Her class was very intensive and covered everything," Ava recalls. Afterward, Jessi gave her a welding helmet and gloves. "Jessi continued to follow up with me. She would look over photos of my welds and help me out." "TO HAVE SOMEONE WHO BELIEVES IN YOU, HELPING TO GUIDE YOU- WITHOUT HER, I WOULDN'T BE WHERE I AM TODAY." AVA WOLFF REMEMBERING JESSI COMBS: At the Grand Canyon. (Photo courtesy Terry Madden) Jessi and Terry with the North American Eagle Speed Chal- lenger. (Photo courtesy Terry Madden) Ava and Jessi working on an Indian motorcycle at a demo in Denver. (Photo courtesy Ava Wolff)

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