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Ed Nied Jr. of Southampton, who died after motorcycle-bear collision, remembered by other riders as selfless



Sunday, November 17, 2013
EASTHAMPTON — The growl of motorcycle engines filled the air outside Mitchell Funeral Home Friday morning as 45 leather-clad men and women started their motorcycles and turned two by two onto Route 10 in a funeral procession to Westfield to bury their late friend Edward Nied Jr.

Behind the hearse, one of the bikers carried a two-foot metal cross that will be erected on the side of Southampton Road in Westfield at the spot where Nied’s motorcycle was broadsided by a bear Nov. 6. The 63-year-old Southampton man died from his injuries at Baystate Medical Center the next day.

While gathered on the sidewalk before the procession, Nied’s friends said that as members of the American Legion Riders Post 224 that Nied helped found, they have ridden many times to remember and honor fallen veterans, including at Memorial Day events and military funerals. But Friday’s procession to St. Mary’s Cemetery was especially sorrowful as they said goodbye to a close friend and a good man who they expected to ride side-by-side with for years to come.

“He’ll be missed greatly,” said Riders member Theodore Zachary of Florence.

Since his death Nov. 7, those mourning Nied have described him as a loving family man who was always ready to help a friend and the community in any way he could. Besides riding his motorcycle, he had a passion for nature, photography and his family.

He leaves his wife of 42 years, Mary Nied, his two daughters, Jennifer Wendolowski of Hatfield and Sara Nied of Chicopee, and his granddaughter, Megan Wendolowski, among other relatives.

Jennifer Wendolowski said that her father was extremely “selfless with his time and with his heart.”

“He was very loving, not only as a man but as a father,” she said. “He had a heart bigger than life.”

Richard Dolat, his co-worker at Industrial Precision Inc. of Westfield, said Nied “never had a bad word to say about anyone.”

Nied was known for his volunteer work, which included coaching softball, serving on the Conservation Commission in Southampton, and volunteering at the Veterans Affairs Central Western Massachusetts Healthcare System in Leeds. He was also a past president of the Easthampton Kiwanis Club.

In Easthampton, Zachary said, Nied could often be seen weeding around the various war memorials. A Vietnam-era Air Force veteran, he was a member of the American Legion Post 224 of Easthampton and the Vietnam Veterans Association 111.

He spearheaded the effort to bring the Vietnam Moving Wall, a mobile replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., to Easthampton in July 2002.

Zachary said his late friend always had a camera in his hands at any American Legion event. “He was (post) 224’s photographer, our historian,” Zachary said. “He loved this organization.”

“And he loved nature — big time,” he added.

Nied enjoyed photographing and observing wildlife, and was especially interested in amphibians, reptiles and the Eastern bluebird. On his website, www.herper.tripod.com, he explained his study of those animals and offered advice to other naturalists hoping to attract the birds.

A Gazette profile of Nied from 2002 recounts how Southampton Police came to refer to Nied as “the frog guy” because they would see him driving around at night looking for amphibeans to photograph as part of a statewide volunteer effort to document amphibian and reptile populations.

Also at the funeral home to participate in the procession were veterans from around western Massachusetts, some of whom had never known Nied. They included members of other posts of American Legion Riders and the Patriot Guard Riders, an organization that attends the funerals of veterans.

“He’s a fallen brother, a fellow veteran,” said James O’Brien of the Southwick American Legion Riders Post 338, which had five bikers in the procession. “We’re here to honor him and show support for his family.”

Rebecca Everett can be reached at reverett@gazettenet.com.