Family, friends honor ‘Westside’

Published 10:32 pm Monday, February 15, 2010

FRANKLIN — Friends, family and especially buddies from the Tiger Riders and other motorcycle clubs in the South Eastern Bikers Association, turned out en masse to honor Booker Jenkins at an appreciation banquet and dance at the Franklin Armory on Saturday.

Jenkins, a Franklin native affectionately known as “Westside” by family and fellow riders, is the founder and president of the Tiger Riders, a motorcycle club that has members from and holds events all over Western Tidewater.

Jenkins has been battling cancer for several years.

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“He’s an easygoing guy, fun to be with,” said Westside’s son and fellow club member, Michael, also known as “Big Mike.”

“He’s always helping other people. Every time I meet someone for the first time that knows him, they’re always talking about how he helped them out and what a good time they had with him. It makes me feel proud that he’s my dad.”

The last time Michael Jenkins rode with his father was December 2008, when they rode around Suffolk and Franklin.

“It might have been one of the first times he actually let me ride one of his motorcycles,” Big Mike chuckled. “He don’t play that too much. Even when I was first going to get my road test, he told me to get my own motorcycle.”

Westside, 62, was born in the Camp Town area across the river from Franklin, and moved to New York City when he was young. He worked for the New York City Transit Authority and retired in 1997, after 26 years of service, and returned to Hampton Roads. He and his brother Max founded the Tiger Riders in the early 1980s.

Bernard Jenkins, Westside’s older brother, traveled from Canton, Ohio, to honor his brother.

“I feel real good for him, I’m really proud of him,” Bernard said. “He’s my baby brother. I feel good that he has so many friends that would come out for an event for him. I’m proud of what he’s done in life.”

Bernard added, “I’m sorry that I didn’t get to spend more time with him. There are probably hundreds of people here tonight who know him better than I do. We stayed in contact and we talked, but these are people who live with him. But he’s done a good job and raised a couple of fine kids and got some good friends.”

Several fellow Tiger Riders and motorcycle enthusiasts from other clubs in the region took their turns at the podium to address the several hundred people in the audience.

They roared when it was finally Westside’s turn to speak.

“When they first told me I had cancer, they told me I had a year to live,” Westside said. “It’s actually been over four years now. (But) this is actually one of the greatest nights of my life. I thank every one of you who came out for this. This is something great, and it doesn’t happen in everybody’s lifetime.”