Motorcycle crash victim ID’d: ‘Small-town soul, big city sensibility’

Auburn’s Paul Reed was rider killed on North Auburn road
By: Gus Thomson, Reporter/Columnist
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Motorcycle crash victim Paul Phillip Reed is being remembered as a generous and gentle, full of life with a great sense of humor.

Reed, 59, was killed July 29 when his 1972 Honda 175 crashed on Old Airport Road in North Auburn.

The Placer County Sheriff’s Office had delayed releasing his name until next of kin were contacted. With no immediate family because of the recent deaths of Reed’s mother, father and only brother, relatives were eventually located in Southern California and notified, allowing  Reed’s identity to be publicly released 1½ weeks after his death.

One of Reed’s long-time friends in the Bay Area, Lori Kearney, said that Reed was adored by his family, his circle of friends and their children, most of who  called him Uncle Paul.

“Some were lucky enough to have him as their godfather,” Kearney said. “Paul had a penchant for life and adventure, a heart of gold and a great sense of humor.”

Reed left Auburn for  San Jose State University after graduating from Placer High School in 1977. He earned a degree in graphic design and eventually worked as a freelance artist, graphic designer and in the graphic design department at U.C. Berkeley.

“He had a small town soul and big-city sensibility,” Kearney said.    

That meant a life that included a penchant for camping and hiking and enjoyment in swimming in the American River.

Berkeley was where Reed made his home for many years but when his widowed mother, Carolyn, suffered a stroke and needed his help, he returned to his boyhood home. She died in March.

In Auburn, Reed worked at Wally’s Naturals while caring for his mother. Kearney said that Reed was riding his beloved Honda on what should have been an uneventful ride home, possibly after getting a bite to eat.

“It was the first and last accident he had ever been in,” Kearney said. “An autopsy showed no sign of a heart attack right before the crash, as some had wondered, and no alcohol in his system.

With no skid marks on the road, Kearney said an animal may have darted out in front of the motorcycle. The Sheriff’s Office report said Reed made an unsafe turning movement that caused the left side of the motorcycle to strike the road. Reed was pitched from the motorcycle and struck the pavement, the Sheriff’s Office said.

Reed was born in Los Angeles and moved to Auburn with his family in 1966. Kearney said Reed was taking a sabbatical from work and planning a long road trip in the fall to reconnect with old friends from throughout his life.

“He was finally in a place where he was financially set and in all other ways ready for the next chapter in his life, with new adventures on the horizon,” Kearney said.        

Reed’s body was found in the road after the crash by a passing motorist.

“Ten flippin’ minutes it would have taken him to get home,” Kearney said. “I’ve been digging deep to find some solace in a final conversation but all I come up with is pain at the thought of a life taken too soon.”