Nick Santana, who loved riding his favorite motorcycle, died last month riding his favorite motorcycle.
He was 64. Police said he was cut off that morning by a car driver as Santana rode from home in Mays Landing to work in Galloway Township.
So naturally, when his family held Nick’s funeral, there wasn’t one motorcycle in the procession.
His wife, Linda, said there were 200 of them — at least.
And that’s to go along with many more vehicles, everything from regular cars to police cars to a firetruck.
“I don’t think the President of the United States gets a motorcade” that big, said Linda, who added that as the procession went by on that “beautiful day, our neighbors were lined up on the streets. We saw veterans and got a salute. ... For it being such a tragedy, it was an extraordinary day for a guy who just enjoyed life.”
Nick had said for years that he wanted a motorcycle for his 50th birthday, but Linda beat him to the punch. She bought him a Harley-Davidson when he turned 49.
The two of them rode that bike happily for five years or so — always with Nick up front. But when back troubles forced a good friend, Mike Coan, of Elmer, to sell his bigger Harley a few years ago, the Santanas bought the hand-painted bike and loved it.
“We just couldn’t let it go to anyone else,” said Linda, who had “the queen seat on the back. ... It’s just a beautiful, beautiful bike.”
Coan, 55, said his buddy “kept it just like I wished it would be kept. And I was happy to be able to see it.”
Along with those hundreds of vehicles in the funeral procession, the Santana family — Nick and Linda have three children and seven grandchildren — had about 1,200 mourners come through Nick’s services at a Mays Landing funeral home.
They came from his job for the last 18 years as a painter at Richard Stockton College, and from past jobs in casino security and with the Atlantic County Sheriff’s Department. They came from as far back as grade school in Egg Harbor City. They came from his years of coaching his kids’ Little League teams in Mays Landing, and lately his grandson’s team. And they came from his veterans groups — Nick was in the U.S. Navy.
“Just to see so many people there from all walks of his life was overwhelming,” Linda said. “He is just missed by everyone in this community.”
That definitely includes the local motorcycle community. Nick’s wife and their daughter, Martina Damico — in this close family, she lives just across the street from her parents — took three of Nick’s grandsons to Wildwood Saturday for one of Nick’s favorite events, the annual Roar to the Shore.
“My dad,” Damico said, “wouldn’t want us to be anywhere else.”
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