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Spyder Lillys: Faith and a through-thick-and-thin friendship

Linda Pedigo, left, Kris Carbone, Anita Soto and LaVonne DeBois found strength in friendship when they decided they did not have to go it alone.

Colleen Callahan

“I would rather walk with a friend in the dark, than alone in the light.” — Helen Keller.
The end of 2015 found LaVonne DeBois “flat on her face” and crying out to God for help. DeBois had grieved over the death of her sister, due to cancer, and the violent murders of her aunt and uncle Doyle and Lillian Chumney in Strasburg.
She then sold a major portion of her 23-year tour business and her home including the majority of her personal belongings. In the midst of her storm, she became the unwanting recipient of the words, “I just need my space,” from a man she was in a relationship with.
The year 2016 found her isolated, lonely and lost. “Most of my community were the visitors on my tour group,” DeBois said. “These people came in from all over the world to tour the Amish Country back roads. They were wonderful, happy people who fueled me. They became my community. When I sold my business, my home and experienced the deaths of family and a personal relationship, I thought, ‘Who is my community now?’”
According to studies sponsored by AARP and the National Institute on Aging, people between the age of 45 and 65 may be the loneliest segment in the U.S. as many are entering retirement, exiting relationships and experiencing loss of loved ones. Feelings of loneliness can lead to social withdrawal, causing increased anxiety.
DeBois experienced that anxiety as she headed into a downward spiral that left her sitting on a chair with a TV remote control as her only source of entertainment. She struggled with the question, “God, what do you want for my life?”
DeBois could have never known that three other women whom she had never met also were asking similar questions and that these women would “save her” with the promise of friendship.
Linda Pedigo, Anita Soto and Kris Carbone were all on a path to finding something that was missing from their respective lives. According to DeBois, it was God, a Spyder and divine intervention that connected these women to her on July 3, 2017.
Social engagement brings about mental engagement. DeBois discovered a way to engage through a Can-Am Spyder that, according to Cycle World, is a “hot rod/cruiser/open-air/not-a-motorcycle-nor-a-car thing” that offers effortless stability and a motorcycles “uncaged” freedom. Freedom was exactly what DeBois was searching for.  
On May 3 she purchased a used Spyder and got off her living room chair and into the leather seat astride an 850-pound, 115-horse-powered, three-wheeled bike and learned how to ride in a church parking lot. After gaining confidence, she set out on the familiar Amish Country back roads and continued to push through her depression and challenge herself on her Spyder.
On a Monday afternoon in July at Rubber City Dealership in Akron, DeBois joined a riding group in a poker run. She was immediately noticed by Carbone of Medina.
“She was sitting on her bike at the top of a hill all by herself,” Carbone said. “There was just something about her that exemplified power and independence, and I wanted to know her.”
That afternoon four women who would later christen themselves as the ‘Spyder Lillys' became friends. According to DeBois, it was not the typical fair-weathered friendship, rather the “through-thick-and-thin” friendship that was born that day.
The Spyder Lillys not only ride together, but also have Bible studies and talk about life’s struggles and joys. All four women have common denominators and stories of survival.
At 45 Soto is the youngest in the group. She is an optometrist, a wife, an outdoor enthusiast and a cancer fighter. She was diagnosed at age 28 with breast cancer and has undergone a mastectomy, chemo, radiation, reconstructive surgeries and years of drug therapy. She was later rediagnosed at age 36 with stage-4 cancer in her liver and bones.
“Life is a day-to-day experience for me,” Soto said. “I ride because it makes me feel alive and free, free of fear. My new-found friendship with these woman is unlike any friendship I have ever experienced before. We learn from one another the different ways and attitudes on how to overcome life’s challenges.”
Carbone and Pedigo both relocated with their husbands from California to Ohio. They attended the same church in Medina but never knew each other. Both women have become, self-admittedly, reclusive since retirement.
“I’m a very introverted person,” Carbone said. “But these ladies bring me out of my quiet self. We have bonded so fast, and yet the strongest bond we share is our love and devotion to Jesus Christ. God brought all of us to the same place at the right time and to a table where we discovered we had more in common than the joy of riding.”
Pedigo said, “I just moved here this year. I’ve not only embraced Northeast Ohio as my home, but I’ve also embraced these women. We are still learning about one another, but every time we get together, we share common experiences and ways to handle uncomfortable situations. It’s nice to know you’re not the only one experiencing unpleasant things, and this friendship allows for great conversations and problem-solving.”
Midlife can bring challenges to women as the transition from mother to empty-nester and/or professional to retired can leave one feeling uncertain of their identity. Some researchers call this “the midlife quest for identity.”
According to an article in Psychology Today, talking to friends who might be going through a similar experience and who will not judge you is important. “One of the worst things a busy woman can do is put their friendships on the back burner. There is no need to tough it out on your own.”
Research has shown ensuring a commitment to a significant life includes nurturing friendships.
The Spyder Lillys are not only committed to nurturing each other, but also providing comfort and ministry to other women in need. Both Pedigo and Carbone have experience in prison ministry and have seen how lives are enhanced through encouragement, faith and love.
“I’ve been involved with Kairos Prison Ministry at the Reformatory Center in Cleveland,” Carbone said. “We want to show these women that there are people out there who won’t give up on them.”
The Spyder Lillys also are talking about future opportunities in creating and initiating charities that will empower women and bring them closer to Christ.
As for DeBois, her cries to God did not go unheard. She is on the move with an energy and zest for life she has never experienced before. She is back to conducting tours through the Amish Country and implementing a new motorcycle back roads tour.
“There is always hope after hurt, life after loss and strength after suffering,” she said. “Last year I felt like I fell off a cliff. Today I am climbing mountains with the help of my friends.”
Call DeBois at 330-340-7343 or visit her Facebook page: Amish Country Bikers of Ohio.

Published: November 20, 2017
New Article ID: 2017171119935