As the founder of a successful Virginia financial company, John Pawlowski was always going somewhere important, his youngest brother said, often cross-country, and — whenever possible — on his "full-dresser" Harley-Davidson.
And his wife, Tonya, whom he met at a Harley-Davidson shop in Virginia where she sold that iconic clothing that riders wear, usually rode with him.
John Pawlowski , 60, died Saturday morning on Interstate 70 when an out-of-control SUV crashed through a barrier into the eastbound lanes just past Interstate 435 in Kansas City and hit their motorcycle head-on.
Tonya Pawlowski was critically injured. The couple lived in Barhamsville, Va., east of Richmond.
Dan Pawlowski, five years younger than John, talked of how easily his business-savvy brother went from executive suit to biker leather, enjoying another ride with his wife of 10 years.
"They were like two honeymooners," he said. "To this day, every day, she was an absolute ray of sunshine and he would have that smile on ear-to-ear."
His brother, who was known as "Big John" at his company, Norseman Advisory Group, Inc., based in Virginia, had a way with being able to work with all walks of life.
John Pawlowski's company has served major corporations, Dan Pawlowski said, while helping him, a highway worker for the New York state transportation department, get his finances in order.
"He put retirement into layman's terms," Dan said. "He's the type of guy who could talk to you all day long."
John Pawlowski, who also was a knife-maker, had two grown children from a previous marriage. He was the oldest of three brothers. He and Tonya had been married nearly 10 years, his brother said.
The two brothers started riding as teenagers, captivated with the allure of powerful, smooth-riding bikes.
John's first bike was a Harley low-rider, Dan said, in the early 1970s. He owned several over the years, enjoying custom-fit, low-riding bikes.
They shared the joy of riding, Dan said.
"It just soothes me," he said. "It relaxes me. On your most stressful day you head to the hills and the wind hits you and you forget everything."
At the end, as he thinks of John and Tonya, he says, "They were doing what they loved — that was, riding."