Remembering John Parham, 1954-2017

Reader Contribution by Press Release
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John Parham dedicated most of his life to motorcycling and to his wife, Jill. With passion and perseverance, through tough times and success, together they created J&P Cycles in 1979 and helped motorcyclists worldwide enjoy two-wheel adventures. Later, John devoted his time and resources to amassing one of the world’s largest and most comprehensive personal collections of motorcycles, in excess of 300 machines, and found a home for many of them when he moved the National Motorcycle Museum to his hometown of Anamosa, Iowa. Then he again invested his time and talent to make this a great place to preserve and present American motorcycling history. He worked tirelessly until his long battle with pulmonary fibrosis consumed him, and now he’s at rest with the Lord. John’s battle ended peacefully with Jill and son Zach at his side.

John at age 5.

John’s parents were the late John William Parham and wife, Anna. He had two siblings, both younger, Luann and Mark, and the family originally lived in Shelby, Iowa, both parents involved in education.

Inside the National Motorcycle Museum.

John would remind us that a lung transplant in 2010 gave him almost seven more years to enjoy his grandchildren, Kaiden and Kinlee, wife Jill, son Zach and his wife Bree, and all his motorcycling friends, and to see the new Museum to its finish and current state of success. John has been so appreciative of the organ donation program, his doctors and the person who lost their life, but in the end helped John live on for so long.

John and the American Pickers.

If a man is to be measured by the size of his circle of friends and, in this case, those who admired his work building J&P Cycles and the Museum, the list would be very long, perhaps as long as any in motorcycling. Those experts who helped John locate and restore many motorcycles, locate fine memorabilia, John would credit in his success as well.

The members of the industry he asked for counsel and ideas, John was careful to remember and give credit as well. Though J&P Cycles is now in the capable hands of their son Zach Parham, those same confident customers follow and support the Museum as well. Unmatched drive helped John perfect product development, point of purchase and direct marketing through catalogs of up to 1,100 pages earning industry awards for the sheer volume of retail sales; John turned his motorcycling passion into successful retailing. Detail oriented, always evolving the product line at J&P Cycles, and creating new Museum exhibits, John loved to see fellow riders taking in whatever the show or event might be, enjoying their part of motorcycling. DealerNews magazine named J&P Cycles the “World’s Largest Aftermarket Retailer” and the company has been a Top 100 Dealer many times. With over 300 local employees, the success of J&P Cycles also strengthened the Anamosa, Iowa, Jones County community. In whatever way they chose, John wanted people to enjoy motorcycling, was very conscious of customer service, always working for happy customers and, if asked, sharing what he’d learned in his broad personal motorcycling experience.

Enjoying motorcycles in action John created events like swap meets, bike shows, drag races, even first organized vintage motorcycle dirt track racing at the BlackHawk Antique Motorcycle Club swap meet at the Mississippi Valley Fairgrounds in Davenport, Iowa. Taking the store to the customer, John set up massive displays at events like Sturgis Motorcycle Rally and March and October Bike Weeks in Daytona Beach, Florida later building an impressive 40,000-square-foot store at Destination Daytona.

Along the way, in 2015, John was elected into the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame, a grand reward for his decades of work in the motorcycle industry and motorcycle museum world.

Painting of John done by David Uhl.

Photo used for the J&P Cycles 2015 Vintage Catalog.

The motorcycling community has lost one of its most passionate, considerate, entrepreneurial and successful people and he will be greatly missed. Anticipating what would be John’s choice, friends are encouraged to sign up for and support the organ donation program in their community and continue their support of the National Motorcycle Museum where a special Exhibition Development Fund will be created.

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