May 6th, 2021

McFadden remembered as legacy builder in local business and motorcycle community


By Herald on April 27, 2021.

Dean McFadden sits on his bike after winning the 1969 Lethbridge Motorcycle Hill Climb competition. Photo courtesy the Galt Museum and Archives

Al Beeber – LETHBRIDGE HERALD – abeeber@lethbridgeherald.com

Dean McFadden is a name synonymous with motorcycling in Lethbridge, which is now mourning the loss of this long-time businessman and competitor.

McFadden died on April 21 at the age of 76 shortly after celebrating his 52nd anniversary to wife Cindy.

While he may no longer be with his family and friends, in person his legacy will live on through his contributions to the Lethbridge business and motorcycling communities.

“He was my mentor and best friend, the kindest guy I ever met in my life,” said Mark McIntosh, who for 20 years restored motorcycles with McFadden.

The last thing McFadden did with his longtime pal, McIntosh said Wednesday, was  meticulously paint while laying on his stomach – with a paintbrush – the centrestand of a 1982 Honda CB900 the pair were restoring.

McFadden was the son of Mac McFadden, who along with friend Bert Turner came to Lethbridge from Saskatchewan in 1939 when they opened their first business selling radios and bicycles. In 1942, the name changed from Bermac Cycle & Radio Co. to Bert & Mac’s, a name now synonymous with two-wheeled sports in Lethbridge.

In 1950, Turner and McFadden began selling Frances-Barnett and Aerial motorcycles as well as Westinghouse and Phillips refrigerators. Diversifying even further, they took on New Scale Williams pianos and Wurlitzer organs. In 1954 they added CCM skates

In 1961 six years after they spilt the venture into two stores with McFadden taking bicycles and motorcycles, the company became the first Suzuki motorcycle dealership in Canada. 

Several years later, in 1967, the McFaddens would purchase the inventory of a motorcycle dealership owned by Bob Kane which gave them the chance to pick up the Honda line and they opened up another store to sell the brand. 

Along with Suzukis which remained at the bicycle shop,  McFaddens also took on Harley-Davidson, Ducati and BSA products at the Honda store. They paid a mere $17,000 for Kane’s dealership, longtime former Honda Centre sales manager and McFadden friend Alf Gurr remembered on Wednesday.

Gurr came to work for McFaddens after a career in the plumbing business. He and Dean met during prenatal classes and one day while visiting his friend, Gurr was apparently mistaken for a salesman by a customer and sold him a machine, which started his career with the McFaddens, first working six months each at the motorcycle shop and the hockey department of the bicycle store in winters. Gurr remembers walking into Dean’s office and asking for an invoice for the new sale which started their professional relationship.

Barry McFadden, Dean’s older brother, recalled Tuesday the McFaddens landing the Suzuki dealership from Ray Deeley, brother of Fred Deeley, a legendary Western Canada Harley-Davidson dealer based in Vancouver.

“He said ‘would you like to be a dealer?’ and we said fine,” recalled Barry.

The big Suzuki model for the McFaddens, according to Barry and Gurr was the now-legendary two-stroke Suzuki 250 X6 Hustler, a 247 cc air-cooled parallel twin.

“Dean really got into it,” Barry recalled. He remembers when 12 Hustlers made it to the dealership “and every kid came down and helped assemble them in the alley.”

In their early days, the McFaddens would sell 140 Suzukis a year while Kane was only selling 90 Hondas, he recalled.

A special promotion for a Suzuki 50 motorcycle had people lined up around the block one day, guessing the mileage of the small bike after an intrepid CJOC radio station salesman had driven it home to Lethbridge from Vancouver for the McFaddens, Gurr laughed. 

Over the years, the McFaddens would add Triumph, Norton, Hodaka and Bultaco lines. In 1972, the bicycle shop picked up the Ski-doo snowmobile a year after it started selling Skiroule sleds and the Honda Center the Arctic Cat brand. While Skiroule ended production in 1976, the other brands have long gone to different dealers with the McFaddens focusing on Polaris at the Honda store.

For Gurr, McFadden was not only a boss but a great friend with whom he shared many adventures.

McFadden, he recalled, was an avid motorcycle rider, doing hill climbs, flat tracks and enduro races. A 1969 Lethbridge Herald photo in the Galt Museum & Archives shows a beaming McFadden straddling a Bultaco after winning the 250cc and 500cc classes as well as the open class of the Lethbridge Motorcycle Hill climb stages.

“We rode Gold Wings together all over the country,” said Gurr. Ever the competitor, McFadden while riding a trail ahead of Gurr on a camping trip with their wives at Lynx Creek put his feet down and sprayed gravel at Gurr who was trailing McFadden and his RMX250 on a Polaris quad with his wife. He absolutely was not going to let his friend catch up.

“He was one of the most competitive men you’ll ever see,” he said. McFadden often would walk from his home near the Sportsplex to the Uplands to grab Gurr for some exercise. They’d walk down to the Honda Centre and then McFadden would walk home — even in -30C weather.

McFadden’s death, said Gurr, “came as a real shock to us all. Wednesday was a rough day for me. We were best friends.”

On a tour of some classic motorcycles displayed in the ceiling of the Honda shop, Gurr recalled how McFadden at the age of 62 was acting as cook for the Blackfoot Motorsports motocross team out of Calgary at a competition in California.

He’d gotten wind of a 1975 Honda CL360 Scrambler for sale a couple hundred miles away and secured a ride to go see it. He bought the bike on the spot, and with an ill-fitting gold metal flake helmet he acquired from the bike’s owner, hightailed it back to the competition with no insurance and no licence in the pouring rain.

McIntosh first met McFadden when he rode to the shop to see if he’d be interested in buying a 1968 Honda CD 175 touring bike from him. Dean met him at the door, bought the bike and the two became fast friends.

“He was a wonderful brother,” added Barry. 

The two brothers followed the advice of their dad Mac whose motto was “the money is in the dirt,” and purchased the property where the Honda Center still operates  at 1117 2 Ave. S., a business that has seen numerous expansions over the decades.

In 1974, the McFaddens entered the car business after Mac had seen Hondas in Palm Springs where he spent his winters. He told his sons Honda was a great car line and to “go after it.”

In 1974, the they began selling Honda at a dealership on the corner of 2 Ave. and Stafford Drive South where it stood for decades until moving to the Lethbridge Auto Mall off the Crowsnest Trail.

In 1978, all motorcycle and snowmobile sales were amalgamated under one roof at the Honda dealership, which now sells KTM motorcycles and Polaris products as well as Hondas and Suzukis and Honda power equipment.

McFadden’s survivors include his wife Cindy, daughter Deana of Portland, Oregon and son Darren of Lethbridge.

In memory of McFadden, donations may be made to the Lethbridge and District Humane Society or the Lethbridge Motorcycle Club.

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