When businessman and Harley-Davidson rider Steve Stroud called up Ray Price last week and told him he’d been selected for induction into the N.C. Sports Hall of Fame, Price didn’t believe him.
Don Fish, executive director of the Hall of Fame, said Stroud had nominated Price and wanted the honor of telling him.
“When Steve called him, he told him, ‘Steve, you’re playing with me. You hang up this phone and call me back,’” Fish told me Sunday, moments before he walked into Price’s funeral service.
Price, the Harley-Davidson motorcycle racer, businessman, engineer and philanthropist died Wednesday, just two days after finding out about the honor that was to be bestowed upon him. He was 78.
After Price got over his disbelief, Fish said, “he was unbelievably excited. ... He was so humble and appreciative, Ray Price-style. He said of all his awards, this one meant the most because it was from his state.”
Fish called Price “an amazingly nice man.”
“My heart’s broken, selfishly, because I didn’t have enough time with Ray and I was looking forward to working with him over the next few months to honor him.”
Fish said he knew Price for a couple of years but felt as though he’d known him much longer. A.J. Carr said the same thing: although he knew him only for about a week, Carr, an N&O sportswriter for 43 years before retiring in 2009, said, “He was such a humble, friendly person, he just became an instant friend. I honestly feel my life was enriched.”
Carr occasionally writes stories for the N.C. Sports Hall of Fame and serves as its secretary/treasurer. He said he took a tour two weeks ago of Price’s shop and business, marveled at his “engineering genius” and admired his myriad plaques and honors. Price led the tour.
“I’m not a motorcycle rider or in the motorcycle sports arena, but I’ve known about him a long time. It was amazing what he’d done” as a businessman and engineer, Carr said. He, too, was fixing to walk into the funeral service when I talked to him.
Like Carr – and unlike my former colleague Dennis Rogers, who fancies himself a rider and wrote a tremendous tribute to Price in the N&O after his death – I’m not a motorcycle rider and have never even sat astride one. Even I, though, knew Price’s name and knew it was synonymous with Harleys in the South. His dealership on South Saunders Street was the largest in the Southeast.
Fish said, “We’ve had other members inducted posthumously, but this is the first time where someone knew he was going in and shortly afterward passed away. Obviously we’re disappointed, but we feel blessed ... that Ray’s in a better place and he knew going there that he was going to become a member” of the hall. “We got half the job done.”
The other half will be done May 5, when Price is inducted into the Hall.