PORTLAND — A thundering memorial from Portland to Naples will be held Saturday as a 10th and final annual motorcycle ride and fundraiser pays tribute to two fallen Portland police officers.
Westbrook Police Chief Janine Roberts, organizer of the Sgt. Rob Johnsey/Sgt. Rick Betters Memorial Motorcycle Ride, said the 60-mile event is expected to draw up to 130 motorcycle riders and passengers.
The bikers will travel from Portland through Westbrook, Gorham, Standish, Sebago, Bridgton and Harrison to Naples.
Johnsey, who lived in Westbrook, died at age 37 after accidentally shooting himself in the leg May 6, 2008, at home while preparing for duty.
Betters, 52, who lived in Falmouth, died Jan. 14, 2009, after suffering “a heart attack a day following a tactical callout,” Roberts said.
A 1974 Gorham High School graduate, Betters was a member of the Portland force for 27 years. Johnsey, a veteran who served with the National Guard in operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, served nine years.
Each sergeant left behind a wife and two children. The decade-old fundraiser has been held to help their families, but this year’s ride will be the last because financial stresses on the families are declining, Roberts said.
“Three of the four children are in college or graduated,” Roberts said.
Johnsey’s widow, Carol Johnsey Kelly, will greet motorcyclists in Portland before they ride out. “Every year it’s very touching,” she said Tuesday.
Johnsey’s birthday was Monday. “He would have 48,” Kelly said. “Rob was a bigger-than-life personality.”
Westbrook Officer Brett Bissonnette was one of the responding officers who found Johnsey unconscious in his home. Bissonnette will ride the department’s motorcycle escorting the memorial, and Roberts, a retired Portland captain, will ride her own bike.
Several members of Betters’ family will be riding, including his brother, nephews and cousin, Roberts said.
A retired Westbrook motorcycle officer, Bob Flood, will ride with Betters’ badge number 224 displayed on the back of his bike. The two had been friends since 1984.
Just days before his death, Betters stopped to give Flood, standing on a sidewalk in Portland, a ride. “I was in shock a week later,” Flood said Tuesday.
Flood remembered Betters as a “great guy” with never a hair out of place. “He was a squared-away guy,” Flood said.
“A bunch of old motor cops are going,” Flood said, and he expects a big finale.
“It’s a family,” he said about the camaraderie among police officers.
Kelly called it a brotherhood.
“Ten years later, I could call any one of them,” she said.
The group will leave Parker’s Restaurant, 1349 Washington Ave., in Portland at 11 a.m. and will arrive at Gary’s Olde Towne Tavern in Naples about 12:30 p.m.
“Once riders pick their feet up at Parker’s our goal is they don’t put them down again until we arrive at Gary’s,” Roberts said.
All motorcyclists are invited to participate, she said.
Registration is from 9:30-10:45 a.m. The fee is $20 per driver and $10 per passenger.
Sgt. Rob Johnsey, left, and Sgt. Rick Betters.
Westbrook Police Chief Janine Roberts is organizing the 10th and final motorcycle ride Saturday, July 28, in memory of fallen Portland police Sgts. Rick Betters and Rob Johnsey.