November '19

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90 THE SHOP NOVEMBER 2019 THERESA CONTRERAS Theresa Contreras is a graphic designer and renowned custom painter. Her paint work has graced the SEMA Show floor and many magazine covers. She was also one of Jessi's closest friends. She met Jessi during the paint portion of the SEMA Mustang Build. "It was a Saturday and a group of us were working on the car and Jessi stopped by. She had worked on the car during another part of the build and wanted to see how it was coming along. She checked out the car and saw my bike sitting in the shop," Theresa recalls. "She said, 'Do you want to go for a ride sometime?' Later she texted me about an event called Babe's Ride Out. We did the ride and had an amazing time of sharing our love of riding and going fast. She liked that I could keep up with her. I would follow her anywhere and she even inspired me to ride with no hands." Theresa believes she and Jessi pushed each other's limits. "I did so much with this girl, from get- ting dirty in the paint booth to getting dirty at the racetrack. She had confidence, not arrogance. That's always something I admired about her," Theresa explains. "She was a free spirit with a mission—a mission to help ignite that spark in others. There are those people in your life that see the potential you have. Jessi saw that in everyone, including me. She wanted to pull that out and bring it alive in everyone. And she did that with me." In 2 0 1 5 , T h e re s a and Jessi started The Real Deal Revolution (realdealrevolution. org), a non-profit orga- nization with the mis- sion of getting girls into the skilled trades. The idea was to break ste- reotypes, shatter expec- tations and help others believe that anything is possible. "Your competition is always with yourself—how much can you grow, and do you want to see yourself grow. Having someone help bring it out—we all need that," Theresa says. She also remembers her friend's sense of humor. "She had this mustache tattooed on her finger and when she needed to break up the tension of a situation, she'd put the finger to her lip and give herself a mustache and laugh," Theresa recalls. "She felt that life was too short to get overly serious. We had so many adventures. To be able to do these things with her was amazing. She will live forever in us all, though, because her soul transcended in that way to all she touched in her life." A FINAL THOUGHT Through the smiles and the tears, Jessi's mission is maybe best summed up by Marla Moore, the marketing director for Leg- endary Companies, which owns Coker Tire. Marla worked with Jessi when she was the first female grand marshal for The Great Race. "When it comes to helping others, we're so busy that we tend to put it off," Marla says. "We'll plan on starting something tomorrow, or say 'I'll do it later on,' or plan to call that person later. This should be a wakeup call. Don't wait. Don't put off until tomorrow what you should be doing right now to help others, to make that difference." It's the inspiration that Jessi shared with all of us. JOANN BORTLES is an award- winning custom painter, air- brush artist, welder/fabricator, tech writer and photojournalist with over 30 years of experi- e n c e i n t h e a u t o m o t i v e industry. She is the author of seven books on automotive, motorcycle and custom painting. Her work has been featured in numerous automotive and motorcycle publications, NBC News, The Today Show, MuscleCar TV and Motor City Masters. JoAnn owns Crazy Horse Custom Paint. "SHE WAS A FREE SPIRIT WITH A MISSION- A MISSION TO HELP IGNITE THAT SPARK IN OTHERS." THERESA CONTRERAS Ava Wolff with Jessi Combs at The Outliers Guild Invitational Motorcycle Show. Ava was displaying her custom 1984 Yamaha XT600 for the Tobacco Motorwear Co. (Photo courtesy Ava Wolff) Jessi Combs left this note for Theresa Contreras a few years ago. "Theresa–If there is anyone who can handle all his awesomeness it's you! Love you tons! Jessi." REMEMBERING JESSI COMBS:

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