Matthew Spray would spend hours with a pencil, drawing whatever was on his mind, often a stylized skull with flames erupting where hair would have been.
Miko, a friend and compatriot, said they created art together, sharing tales or saying nothing at all. He recounted the memory Feb. 16 as others likely did the same at the Screamin Demons’ clubhouse on Academy Avenue just before 250 to 300 somber folks headed out on big burly bikes on a ride to memorialize Spray.
“He was a very caring person,” Miko said. “He had the biggest heart in the world.”
The Demons postponed their Blessing the Bikes annual event to honor Spray, one of their own who died Feb. 2 due to health complications. Spray, 40, was the club’s vice president and was described as a character, larger than life, with a wicked sense of humor and a magnetic personality that attracted many into his social orbit.
Thomas Qualls, Demons president, said Spray was the kind of guy “who knew everyone. He was pretty talented, knew something about everything.”
Frank Ramos, the Demons’ sergeant at arms, said, “This is pretty much all his friends here. Everybody who loved him.”
Qualls said Spray grew up in Reedley and had been a member of the club since 2012. He said that’s why the group was headed to Reedley and the Kings River with a stop at the Wakehouse.
“We grew up at Kelly’s Beach,” said Jason Spray, Matthew’s older brother. “He loved it, loved the river.”
Jason said his “baby” brother’s health began to deteriorate after he contracted double pneumonia some years ago, likely from riding his Harley in bad weather and not taking good care of himself. The pneumonia returned, bringing with it complications which ultimately affected Matthew’s heart, he said.
Multiple hospital stays, cropping up perhaps every six months, followed until his body just gave out.
Miko told another story about Matthew, using it to illustrate what kind of guy he was for those who didn’t know him. He said there was a reason all these people came from all over to honor his friend. Miko said a buddy of theirs had gone missing, as long as a couple weeks, and his mother asked that Matthew try to find him.
Matthew put the word out. “It was about 6 a.m.,” Miko said when they heard something. They didn’t know the circumstances. A friend was in trouble. “Without even thinking twice, he said, ‘Let’s go.’ We both jumped on our bikes.”
They located the friend and brought him home. Miko didn’t explain details. The situation didn’t sound good. “He was always about his people,” Miko said.
Ray Tackett, with the UnderLords of Fresno, said Matthew knew his time was limited. “It didn’t stop him,” he said.
Matthew Spray also participated in fundraisers for Valley Children’s Hospital, raising with his club, the UnderLords and others upwards of $25,000 over the years for its Craycroft Cancer Center. Qualls explained that Matthew was a big part of the End of Summer Super Bash Biker Rodeo, which has been held at Lindy’s Landing in Reedley and is the chief means of raising money for the charity.
“Each year, it keeps getting bigger,” Qualls said.
Qualls talked about Matthew in his office. Tackett and Miko were there, too, each sharing a chuckle or getting instantly somber as they recalled something of their friend.
“He was real easy to get along with,” Qualls said. “But he was at times cantankerous.”
Randy “Gadget” Holden planned to give the eulogy that day. “I’ve got this whole thing his mom wrote,” Holden said. “I’ve got a story or two. I’ll read passages (of Scripture). Then I’ll open it up.”
Holden, or maybe it was Qualls or one of the others in the office, told this story of Matthew Spray. He was given money by the “brothers” at the club to go buy groceries for some function or another. However, Matthew ran into a woman down on her luck, who couldn’t muster up the cash to feed her family. “So he bought her groceries,” he said. “Then he dashed back and asked for more cash.
“He gave 100 percent to everybody, 100 percent of the time.”
Tackett said, “He took the club very seriously.”
Qualls said, “He was a ladies man, always cutting up. He was always the life of the party.”
Kenny Peterson added, “And he was always running out of gas.”
Matthew rode a 1988 Harley soft tail “Thomas Qualls custom” motorcycle. His brother Jason rode the bike in his brother’s absence that day. “I painted it,” he said.
“He was a people person,” Jason said. “My brother got around. He touched many, and he was loved by many."
Chrystal Pate said Matthew’s last few months were a struggle. But likely that’s not what she’ll remember. She said those times when he headed straight from work to spend time with her working out of town on weekends. “Always helping a damsel in distress,” she said.
The rain began to fall as the bikers headed out. Matthew was on their minds. One of the last to leave was Jason who said, “Rain? You know what my bother’s comment would be? ‘Free bike wash.’”
And he roared down the road.
Many wore specially made black T-shirts that day commemorating Matthew. Atop a Ghost Rider caricature in red were letters in white cursive: “Heaven Gained A Demon.”
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