Family friends gathered at Sequim house of Knievel son mourn death of daredevil icon Evel

By Valerie Gibbons, Peninsula Daily News

SEQUIM - A tightly knit group of Knievel family friends was already packing boxes at Robbie Knievel's North Olympic Peninsula home on Friday when the phone rang.

Kneivel's father, Evel, the most famous motorcycle daredevil in the world, had died at his Florida condominium. He was 69 years old.

"It's been a shock to us that it happened like this," said Cathi Feroni, a friend of the Knievel family since they lived in Butte, Mont.

"Evel had been very sick, but we didn't expect him to die so soon," she said.

The group had been packing Robbie's Sequim home all morning.

Robbie Knievel already had called his friends from the road to ask them to help him put his belongings into storage when he received news that his father's health was failing.

So while Knievel raced to Florida to be by his father's side, his neighbor Todd Tjernell, and Feroni pitched in to help the motorcyclist with the move.

"I've known Evel since I was a very, very little girl," Feroni said.

"I was very close to him.

"It's really upsetting because we were just packing up some of Evel's belongings, laughing and talking about him, when we found out that he had died.

As word of Evel Knievel's death spread, 10 friends from the North Olympic Peninsula and Seattle gathered at Robbie Knievel's home on Friday night.

"We just wanted to shared our memories," Feroni said.

Robbie Knievel was unavailable for comment on Saturday.

Reached on Saturday, Tjernell's voice broke as he recalled Evel's last words to him six months ago at Knievel Days in Butte, Mont.

Tjernell, who works as a ramp-builder for Robbie Knievel's motorcycle jump team, proudly told the elder Knievel that he had been sober for three years.

"He smiled at me and said, 'Bless you,'" Tjernell said.

Robbie Knievel has made a name for himself following in his father's footsteps.

At the age of 8, he performed in his first show with his father at Madison Square Garden. He was touring by the time he was 12.

So far, "Kaptain" Robbie Knievel has performed 250 jumps and broken 20 world records.

He even successfully completed his father's ill-fated jump over the Caesars Palace Fountain in 1989 and jumped a section of the Grand Canyon in 2000.

He has had a home in Sequim for eight years but, according to Tjernell, it has been four years since the motorcycle daredevil last stayed in the area.

Knievel has lived in a custom motorhome for the last several years, traveling around the country doing shows, Tjernell said.

His reality show, "Knievel's Wild Ride," aired for 13 episodes on A&E in 2005.

Tjernell was working as a carpenter and framer when Robbie Knievel moved in next door.

Eventually, the motorcyclist asked him to build a ramp for him.

After Tjernell finished the ramp Robbie Knievel told him "Yup. You're a lifer. I'm keeping you for life."

The pair have been close friends ever since.

"He's a gypsy," Tjernell said.

"He only wants to be on the road. He liked it here in Sequim and he quieted down for a few years, but he just likes to be a little more busy.

"Now it's up to him to carry on his father's name and his legend."

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Reporter Valerie Gibbons can be reached at (360) 417-3537 or valerie.gibbons@peninsuladailynews.com

Last modified: December 01. 2007 9:00PM
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