October 14, 2021
By Kali Kotoski
The AMA offers its condolences to the family, friends and coworkers of the outgoing and talented Clyde Fessler, Jr. Better known as “Clyde the Glide,” Fessler is credited with pioneering the establishment of the Harley Owners Group, turning Harley-Davidson’s motorcycle clothing line into a $100 million growth machine and setting up the company’s global rental operations. He passed on September 13, 2021 at the age of 79.
Fessler was born in Sheboygan, Wis., on Nov. 30, 1941. He learned from his parents to work hard and pave his own way, and ultimately became a creative innovator of products, marketing and branding strategies.
He graduated from the University of Notre Dame in 1964 and joined Harley-Davidson in 1977 for what would become a 25-year career at the company that saw him rise through the ranks. In 1977, he started as Advertising and Promotions Manager and was soon promoted to Director of Marketing where he led the establishment of the Harley Owners Group.
As General Sales Manager in the 1980s, Fessler established new dealer incentives and a global licensing program. Next, as Vice President of General Merchandise, he built the motorcycle clothing line from $20 million to $100 million in five years. In his final role as Vice President of Business Development, Fessler helped to refine the strategic direction of the company as well as create the Global Rental Program and Rider’s Edge Safety Training programs.
Fessler retired from Harley-Davidson in early 2002 and for nearly the next 20 years became an active marketing consultant and motivational speaker to crowds as large as 15,000 people.
Additionally, Fessler served on the Board of Trustees of the American Motorcycle Association and the Motorcycle Safety Foundation. He is a 2014 inductee into the Sturgis Hall of Fame.
A pivotal moment in his life was when he was accepted into the exclusive motorcycle club known as The Hamsters, a brotherhood that extended far beyond two wheels.
Fessler met his wife, known as River, in 2021 and they soon were married in Spearfish, South Dakota on August 13, 2021.
Only days later Fessler and River were exposed to COVID-19. Within a week, Fessler was admitted to the hospital fighting for his life, which resulted in his passing on their one-month anniversary.
A tragic and unexpected event to what should have been years together.
Clyde Fessler, Jr. is survived by his loving wife Dorine (River) Currey Rivers, his son Clyde Derek Fessler (partner Annmarie Satriano-Hoskins), grandchildren Clyde Donovan Fessler, Xander Fessler, Lorelei Fessler, his sister Julie Long (daughters Kirsten and Kelley), and his brother John (Jack) Fessler.
*This story has been adapted from the obituary of Clyde Fessler, Jr. that originally appeared in The Arizona Republic.