When Jacob Sims leaves on a 4,100-mile motorcycle ride in June, Todd Lasky will be with him.
“He’s going to make that ride through his helmet,” Sims said, speaking of his late friend who died Nov. 18 in an air ambulance crash northwest of Mandan.
Lasky was a pilot for Bismarck Air Medical, bound for Williston that night with paramedic Chris Iverson and nurse Bonnie Cook. Their plane broke up in flight and crashed in a remote pasture west of Harmon Lake in rural Morton County. No one survived. The cause of the crash is still under investigation.
'All-around good guy'
Sims and Lasky were friends for four years, sharing an interest in motorcycles. They worked together at Year Round Recreation, a small engine repair shop in Bismarck which Lasky owned.
Lasky was a good teacher, a helpful friend and always had a smile.
"He had a heart of pure gold," Sims said, his voice growing thick. "He was just an all-around good guy. He would do anything to help you out, for anybody."
Lasky had a long motorcycle ride planned as a bucket list item — "a major journey" which Sims said he plans to make in honor of his friend.
He said he'll take Lasky’s helmet with him as he travels through Delaware, Virginia and stopping at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force at Dayton, Ohio, and the Wright Brothers National Memorial in North Carolina.
“Where else do you take a pilot?” Sims said.
He attended his friend’s funeral in Minnesota, but didn’t attend the joint memorial in Bismarck for Cook, Iverson and Lasky. But Sims said he was impressed with the attendance from emergency responders and ambulance services from around North Dakota. More than 40 ambulances participated in a procession.
The Rev. Greg Carr, who helped organize and spoke at the joint memorial, said community support in the wake of the tragedy was "overwhelming," from locals delivering food to police, fire and ambulance stations, to the attendance of the memorial.
"We had three people who meant a lot to this community who are no longer here," Carr said. "You're looking at the holes that Bonnie's death left at St. Alexius. You're looking at the hole that Todd's death left at Bismarck Air and then Chris at the Metro Area Ambulance.
"Three very important individuals, gone."
Tattoos for Todd
Sims found another way to honor his friend. In a tattoo on his left forearm, Sims had inked Lasky’s initials and dates of birth and death against pilot’s wings and the Rod of Asclepius.
Sims said he initially had a different tattoo planned when he called to change his appointment for the tribute to Lasky.
“I told (the artist), I said, ‘I hate to do this on you, but I’ve got to change it, and I think when you find out why you’ll be all right with it,’” Sims said.
For him, it’s a way to memorialize his best friend. And it’s gone over well.
“Everybody at the funeral — I was getting attacked, everybody wanted to see it,” Sims said, smiling.
Bonny Senger, Lasky's fiancee, said she's planning a tattoo in his memory, too. So is her son.
She may do something smaller than Sims' and with angel's wings, but she's still deciding. She would also like a memorial bench and maybe a tree for Lasky as well, as he is buried at Virginia, Minn.
Senger also said she's finding her new normal after Thanksgiving and Christmas without Lasky, who she met July 4.
There was one surprise in the past month: Lasky and Senger's son, Jordan, had been planning a surprise birthday party for her, which was set for the day on which Lasky's funeral fell.
The party went on the next weekend, Senger said — with a DJ, karaoke and Lasky's portrait atop his motorcycle.
"It was hard but it was a really nice, honorable gathering," Senger said. "We were celebrating Todd's life and my birthday."
'He loved to have fun'
For Sims, he said he plans to keep working as a mechanic and newspaper carrier.
He’s shuffled most of Lasky’s clientele over to the shop where he works now to keep serving them, he added.
And there’s the ride to make next summer.
“He loved to fly. He loved to ride. He was a very fun individual,” Sims said of Lasky. “He loved to have fun.
“And I’ll miss him. That’s for sure.”