In 1968 a group of riders who had been running together for some time decided to start a motorcycle club. The motorcycles included Hondas, Triumphs, BSAs, Nortons and a Harley. After a lot of discussion, the name FREEWHEELERS became the name of choice and the club designed a set of colors which consisted of a large one-piece patch with the name in red letters on a white background arched over the top and a large golden area below with a sort of spread-wings look to it and the letters M C in red in the middle. It wasn't fancy, but it established the club as a cohesive group in the western suburbs of Chicago.
numbers fluctuated as all clubs do, but eventually the club grew to about
ten members. One day in Chicago at a Bike Show the club was strolling
the aisles and came upon another club with the same name. The two Presidents
met and exchanged greetings and, instead of any sort of conflict, the
meeting was very respectful and a life-long mutual admiration relationship
started. All were surprised that, just as a coincidence, the same names
had been chosen for the clubs which had started about the same time. Neither had ever heard of the other until
the chance meeting at the Bike Show.
Since the West Side club was smaller, the large golden patch was retired and the West Side members changed over to the patch worn by the Northwest Side club which was a single, squared black patch with rounded corners that had an unrolled scroll look to it and the name FREEWHEELERS at the top with M C at the bottom and ILLINOIS under that.
Some of the West Side FREEWHEELERS had run into some members of the Chicago HELL'S HENCHMEN at one point and were impressed with the respect they were shown. Sometimes attitudes change and eventually some of the West Side FREEWHEELERS decided to leave and prospect for the HELL'S HENCHMEN. All who went over became full patched members, but their personal ties to their old brothers in the FREEWHEELERS remained intact.
A few years later, the West Side chapter of the FREEWHEELERS started having philosophical differences with the Northwest Side chapter and they decided a change was in order. At a joint meeting of both chapters, the West Side chapter dropped their affiliation with the Northwest chapter and became a separate new club called DEVIL's USHERS. The DEVIL'S USHERS grew rapidly to about twenty five members and a few years later, since they had close ties to the HELL'S HENCHMEN through the members who had gone over earlier, the entire club of DEVIL'S USHERS became prospective members for the HELL'S HENCHMEN. Only five made it to the status of full patched members.
After being in the Chicago HELL'S HENCHMEN for a period of time, it was decided a West Side chapter should be established. The first West Side HELL'S HENCHMEN started in St. Charles by former members of the West Side FREEWHEELERS and eventually ended up in a clubhouse on the outskirts of West Chicago. A few years later all of the HELL’S HENCHMEN chapters patched over to another club. Former members of the FREEWHEELERS and HELL'S HENCHMEN who had retired over the years still remained in close contact with each other and blended back together again as FREEWHEELERS.
On August 17, 1999, Hot Dog, the President of the Northwest chapter who had always been their President died suddenly which was a major blow to all who had known him over the years. His wake and funeral brought many old friends together again who hadn't seen each other in years. It was a great celebration of a wonderful man and leader who had meant so much to so many. After Hot Dog's death the FREEWHEELERS continued to ride, but eventually, because of many factors, the group split into two clubs as it had been before they had met over thirty years before. Some of the Northwest Side members went with the West Side.
The West Side FREEWHEELERS continue to ride today and changed their colors to a three-piece patch. Some of the current members are original members of the West Side FREEWHEELERS including some who went to the HELL’S HENCHMEN and then back to the FREEWHEELERS in later years.
We are always looking to meet new people who understand what it's all about. If you see us somewhere, come over and introduce yourself.
It is with deep personal sadness that we relay the following information.
Long time member Big Fred Vitek passed away on Christmas Day, December 25, 2009, from pancreatic cancer.
During November, 2009, Big Fred missed a few club events that he normally wouldn’t have missed. He said he wasn’t feeling good, but none of us knew why. On November 14th we had an event but early that morning he called and said he wasn’t feeling well and maybe would hook up with us later in the day. Indeed he did call later and meet us.
The following day, we were all supposed to meet again but he was a no-show.
On Saturday, November 28th we had another event planned but he didn’t make it. The following Monday his wife, Sioux, made contact and said that he hadn’t been able to attend because he was going through a series of tests at the hospital. He had been in the hospital for six days but didn’t want anybody to know. The doctors didn’t know what was going on, but she said she would let us know as soon as there was any information.
On Thursday, December 3rd we got word and it was a heartbreaker. Big Fred had been diagnosed with a cancerous tumor on his pancreas that was inoperable. Pancreatic Cancer is one of the deadliest cancers there is. One reason it is so deadly is that there aren’t any symptoms until it is too late to do anything and then it spreads very quickly.
The doctors told Big Fred that he had possibly just a few months to live. They said they could give him Chemo that might extend that time a little but the entire time he would be extremely sick due to the disease and Chemo. He chose to not take the Chemo. He said he had already been sick for some time and he wasn’t going to spend the time he had left being more sick.
He was immediately put under the care of a Hospice Nurse at home along with a social worker and they kept him comfortable. He was on a full regimen of drugs and slept a lot. Thankfully he was not in pain but was very weak and eventually stopped taking any nourishment or water.
On Christmas Day he passed away. The wake was held on December 30, 2009, with private funeral arrangements later. It was about a month from diagnosis until his death.
The wake was attended by many old friends and members from the biker world from as far away as Nebraska.
We extend our sympathies to Sioux and their daughter, Kristin, and to all who will miss him.
Memorials may be made to Rainbow Hospice, 444 N. Northwest Highway, Suite 145, Park Ridge, IL 60068.
FOR COMING ALONG