LARGO — Lu Haddeman, a 71-year-old great-grandmother, was no stranger to motorcycles.
She and her ex-husband often rode together when they were married. Her youngest son got his first dirt bike when he was 8.
Haddeman, who lived in Largo, had been riding behind 75-year-old George Talcott on his blue BMW motorcycle for the past two years, including on last Sunday evening, when the two were heading south on U.S. 41 in northern Hernando County.
A 2006 Chrysler turned onto the highway from Lake Lindsey Road and crashed into their motorcycle, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.
Haddeman died hours later. Talcott, of Clearwater, was in critical condition on Friday at Bayonet Point Hospital.
At 10 p.m. on the day of the crash, two troopers arrived at the home of Haddeman's younger sister, Shirley Windisch, to deliver the news, leaving the family to console itself with the knowledge Haddeman had died doing what she loved.
"You couldn't tie her down," said Haddeman's son, Kevin Grider. "Motorcycles were a big part of her life."
"People always say, 'It's not going to happen to me,' " Windisch said Thursday as she held back tears. "She always said she was going to live to be 102."
Haddeman had lost loved ones to motorcycle crashes — her 23-year-old nephew, and years later, her fiance.
Haddeman's family traveled from Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota for her memorial service Friday. They stayed at her home on Queen Palms Street in Largo.
Haddeman met Talcott about two years ago at a social function. They traveled on his bike to New York City and Bike Week in Daytona Beach. In May, they rode to the Florida Keys. They had plans to ride the BMW to Waterloo, Iowa, next month.
Grider said he never asked his mother to stop riding. "You don't tell my mother something like that," he said.
Loved ones said Haddeman barely spent time at her white mobile home with yellow trim. She was a member of several groups, including the Red Hat Society, Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Fraternal Order of Eagles.
"She made outgoing people seem like couch potatoes," said Mickey Haddeman, 35, her youngest son.
Sheila Miltner, Haddeman's friend, described her as the "life of the party." At a VFW convention in Jacksonville about three years ago, Haddeman plopped herself on top of a man in an electric wheelchair and took control of the chair. In the past, she made the 22-hour car ride to visit family in Waterloo.
"Lu lived life to the fullest," said another friend, Patty Depriest. "She's the type of person you don't put an age to."
Talcott is in the hospital and has undergone several surgeries, according to Haddeman's family. He doesn't know she is dead.
Miltner said the accident is a shock. "George was always very careful," she said. "He always tried to be home before dark."
The crash is under investigation, troopers said.
On Friday, Haddeman's family sifted through the items inside her Ford Taurus.
On the back of the car, a purple bumper sticker read: "Look twice — save a life. Motorcycles are everywhere."
Staff writer Laura C. Morel can be reached at (727) 893-8713 or firstname.lastname@example.org.