Saturday, August 15, 2009

Florence Emde; matriarch of motorcycle-enthusiast family


By Jeff Ristine
Union-Tribune Staff Writer
2:00 a.m. August 13, 2009

Florence Emde, matriarch of a prize-winning motorcycle-racing family and former co-owner of one of the top motorcycle retail businesses in San Diego County, has died. She was 90.

Mrs. Emde, of Escondido, died July 30 at a nursing facility.

Mrs. Emde, a Brooklyn native who moved with her family to San Diego as a child, was introduced to motorcycling as a teenager by an older brother. It was through this hobby that she met her future husband, Floyd Emde, in the 1930s, making her even more of an enthusiast.

By the 1950s, Mrs. Emde was riding mainly as a passenger behind her husband, and sometime in the '60s she got off bikes for good, said one of her sons, Don Emde.

But everything still revolved around the vehicles. “That was her life,” said her daughter Nancy Emde-Steward.

Mrs. Emde is thought to have been the only woman with a husband and son who both have won the Daytona 200, an annual race in Daytona Beach that began in 1937. Floyd Emde won in 1948; their son Don did so in 1972.

Once Floyd Emde's professional racing career was over, the couple went into the retail trade. They owned three motorcycle dealerships in the county under the name Floyd Emde Co., operating in National City, downtown San Diego and the College Area; the National City shop became a meeting place for some motorcycle clubs.

Despite her knowledge of the subject, Mrs. Emde worked primarily in an office behind the scenes and not on the sales floor. But with her husband and sons frequently out of town for competitions, “the thing that made it all work was the fact that she stepped up and pretty much ran the dealerships” in their absences, Don Emde said.

If she felt any kind of apprehension about racing, she kept it inside, her children said. At competitions, she became the family's No. 1 fan, and when her son duplicated her husband's win in Daytona, Mrs. Emde was overjoyed, Emde-Steward said.

The couple retired from the motorcycle business in 1980, Don Emde said. But Mrs. Emde maintained an interest even after her husband died in 1994, and went to the Daytona 200 in 1995 to renew acquaintances, her daughter said.

Survivors include her sons Bob Emde of Chula Vista and Don of Laguna Niguel; daughters, JoAnne Emde of Escondido and Nancy Emde-Steward of Vista; 13 grandchildren; and 16 great-grandchildren. A third son, David, died in 2003.

Services were held Aug. 6 at Glen Abbey Memorial Park.