Each time the Young Guns Memorial Weekend is held at the Penticton Speedway, memories come flowing for Donna Wilson and Robert Dery.
Wilson is the grandmother of Bobbie Wilson and Robert is the father of Dayton Dery, who both died in a car accident during the Christmas holidays in 2008. The 10th annual Young Guns Memorial, May 19-20, commemorates their life.
Donna and Robert love that their family members are remembered during the Victoria Day long weekend.
“It’s great,” says Donna. “Bobbie was part of their family. And they recognize family. I think it is really important to them and Bobbie was very close to Johnny. He was part of his family too.”
“I think it’s a good thing. There is a reason and I think it is fit,” says Rob. “He was a young man at that time. He was just taking over my hit to pass car. I’m still running the same hit to pass car. I’ll be out (this) weekend. I think it’s good for the people that remember. I find it to be an honour for them to honour the two boys.”
It was initially difficult for Donna to go to the track, but it is important that she does. During the weekend the Speedway hands out the Bobbie Wilson Young Drivers Award, which is blue, Bobbie’s favourite colour.
Robert loves the weekend, but it brings up difficult emotions.
“It’s very harsh for me to deal with that loss,” he continues. “It is difficult to sometimes keep wrapping your head around it. To me it’s a continued washing machine. I miss him every day. He would have been 26 now.”
Bobbie, who had tourettes and a tick, was described by Donna as a person who made every minute count. He lived each day structured from the time he woke up until he went to bed. He was also strong in school and never had homework, completing it when he had free time at school. Being at the Speedway was his saving grace.
“That changed his entire life,” says Donna. “He had a tough time up until he went to the race track.”
His favourite thing in the world was the smell of rubber and Bobbie loved to squeal tires. He was 10 the first time he went to the track with his mom. He loved being at the Speedway so much he would bike from the middle of town to the track in scorching heat. Speedway owner Johnny Aantjes gave him little jobs that got Bobbie interested in the sport. Donna saw how Aantjes made the life of kids different.
“Johnny was the answer we were looking for Bobbie,” she says. “The way he talked to the boys. He was strict. Bobbie always knew where he stood. He just wanted to help. Johnny kept him busy.”
As for the friendship between Bobbie and Dayton, Donna says they were glued at the hips.
“They did everything together,” says Donna, adding that Bobbie and Dayton had energy for four people. “Dayton’s dad showed Bobbie different things.”
“The two kids were race track rats,” Rob says laughing. “They spent a lot of time at the track and helping Johnny. Bobbie was always over trying to learn things.”
Donna remembers the boys tinkering with cars in the freezing cold, not knowing how they could do that. They were working on a motor in the back of Dayton’s moms house before they died.
“I had to go up there because they wanted to show me how they worked on it,” she says. “How it ran. They stripped it and reconditioned the whole motor and were proud of themselves. They were right into the mechanics.”
Every time Robert gets ready to race at the Speedway, he has a picture of Dayton in his car. Dayton became interested in racing when his father quit drinking about 20 years ago and the two became closer spending time building cars together, including one for Dayton’s mom.
“The bond was there and out of all my kids, he was my best friend, my buddy,” says Robert. “He was open to suggestions. Always pulling wrenches with me. Very quick learner. His mechanics teacher always had problems with him not looking into the books. When he was at home, if he ran across a problem, he would always ask.”
The weekend races begin Saturday, May 19 at 7 p.m. and will feature a Hornet invitational, Street Stocks and Flying Destruction. On May 20 at 2 p.m., there will be another Hornet Invitational, Street Stocks and a Hit to Pass Day of Destruction.