MANATEE -- Growing up, John Christopher Meredith learned how to ride a motorcycle on his father’s blue Kawasaki.
But when he was about 17, his father left Indiana for Florida, where he lived for about 15 years.
When John was of age to ride a motorcycle, he only wished for one thing.
“All I ever wanted growing up was to go riding with my dad,” he said.
His father, John S. Meredith, was struck by a van on U.S. 41 on Wednesday in Manatee County while riding his 2009 Kawasaki.
Meredith, a father of five, Vietnam War veteran and motorcycle lover, died at the scene.
His family is now preparing for his first and final visit to Indiana.
He will be buried later this month at the Crown Hill Cemetery and Funeral Home in Indianapolis, where his son John is the interment and special projects manager.
After graduating high school in the 1960s, Meredith enlisted in the U.S. Army and later fought overseas in the Vietnam War, said his sister, Pamela Meredith.
“Then when he came out of the Army, he was a recruiter for a while,” she said. Loved ones said Meredith also worked for Firestone and as a deputy for the Marion County Sheriff’s Department.
When he lost his job at Firestone, he moved to Florida with his wife, his sister said. But they divorced.
“He just kind of dropped contact,” Pamela said. “I don’t know why he did it ... but he just did it.”
John said he hadn’t spoken to his dad in about six years. Pamela said he called her when she was in a car accident in the 1990s.
His son, John, said he believes his father pulled away from loved ones because he was marred by his time at war. He often had nightmares and suffered back pain.
“For my dad to do that,” he said, “it had to be something bad.”
Pamela said she never worried about her brother’s motorcycle riding.
“We know he knew how to ride one,” she said. “It just never was a problem.”
Pamela said some of her best memories with her brother include dancing. Meredith loved music, she said, and often listened to George Benson. “Me and him would put that music on and we would dance,” she said.
John said that growing up, he and his father “did everything together.” They went on trips to Florida. Went roller skating. Drove out into the country.
John said he won’t blame his dad’s death on motorcycle riding.
“If it’s your time, it’s your time,” he said. “My dad’s death is not going to deter me from riding.”
Meredith also attended Colony Baptist Church in Ellenton for more than 15 years, said pastor George Hefner.
Meredith lived in a Palmetto mobile home park by himself, Hefner said, adding that his motorcycle “was his only mode of transportation.”
Pamela said he is survived by three sons, two daughters, herself and another sister, Peggy Elliott.
“John was just kind of a lonely guy,” Hefner said.