News

Local motorcycling figure Kari Prager dies at 63

Kari Prager, longtime owner of the California BMW and Triumph motorcycle dealership in Mountain View, passed away at his home unexpectedly on Sunday after suffering from respiratory problems, leaving behind a number of shocked family members, friends and employees.

Prager, a 63-year-old resident of Mountain View's Waverley Park neighborhood, owned the dealership on Old Middlefield Way for 29 years. Two years ago he opened another one in Livermore with his partner Michael Weissner.

"I think everyone here was shocked to hear about his death," said sales consultant Arlie Ray Blackshear. He added that Prager showed no signs of ill health and was going on motorcycle rides just days before his death.

He's well remembered for regularly leading his customers and others on monthly rides, including a one-day ride every September to Yosemite and back.

"He loved having people enjoy their bikes after they bought them," said his wife Gail. "Some people, they buy the bike and they don't have anyone to ride with them. People would meet each other this way. He was a community builder. He loved it."

A year ago Prager "semi-retired" from running the day-to-day business, as Meissner continued to operate the dealership, Gail said.

"A big part of his life was opening that shop and growing it, seeing it through hard times and good times," said Gail, who works as the dealership's office manager. "We have many employees who have been there 10 to 20 years. It feels like a family. That was very important to him."

Prager's impact on the Bay Area motorcycling community was apparent as news of his death has spread quickly on Internet message boards devoted to motorcycling, where he is remembered as "kind and generous," a "class act" and someone who made everyone who came through the shop's door feel like a valued customer.

"The quality of my moto life is largely thanks to the business they created and the communities Kari supported with such kindness and enthusiasm," wrote Cecilie Hoffman in a blog post about Prager's death.

One of the photos found online of Prager shows Gail and him standing next to the motorcycle he built for her as a wedding present in 1978. She happily recalled meeting him when she was 19, joining him for several motorcycle rides before they were engaged, ring across the country to their wedding in Massachusetts, being married in her father's backyard, and spending their two-week honeymoon riding back to the West Coast. "That bike he built for me never had a single problem," she said. "His broke down several times. That's the story behind that picture. There's a million stories."

Prager's enthusiasm for motorcycles began immediately after purchasing a BMW motorcycle as a student at Dartmouth College, where he studied anthropology and graphic arts. He even went with a Dartmouth professor on some archaeological digs in Holland and the Arctic Circle. He had a fellowship at Harvard to study art History, but as he says on his facebook page he received "no degree. Became motorcycle mechanic instead." The mechanic job led to he and Gail helping to start Bavarian Cycle Works in San Francisco. They opened their Mountain View dealership in 1981, and worked happily together over 30 years.

"Everyone is amazed by that, but it worked for us," Gail said. "We worked so well together. We had totally different ways of working and different areas of responsibility so we never stepped on each other's toes."

Prager was born in a ski resort in Sun Valley, Idaho. His father, Walter Prager, was a Swiss downhill ski champion who had immigrated to the United States at the start of World War II and was immediately sent back to Europe as an American soldier, earning a bronze medal. His father became an Olympic skiing coach, which is why Prager was born in the ski resort. Prager himself was Vermont's cross county ski champion when he was a junior and senior in High School. His mother, Eleanor Prager, was fairly well known as an artist, Gail said.

He always maintained his love for art and history and in his final years took up an interest in writing poetry. "He was very intellectual, very smart," Gail said of her husband. "He knew about ancient history, world wars, even Greek history. He was knowledgeable about a lot of things. And he was a very good mechanic, of course."

Prager grew up on a farm in the Vermont town of Norwich and developed a love for rifles from an early age. He was a lifelong gun enthusiast and collected antique rifles and kept a library of books about them. If he was ever asked about a particular rifle, the person would get back a lengthy e-mail response, Gail said.

He was a very sociable person, and made "instant friends all the time" Gail said, especially on the regular rides he led. Rain, snow or shine, he would show up the first Sunday of the month at his dealership and give a safety talk before a ride that could be 100 miles or more, often taking breaks at Alice's Restaurant in Woodside. He could ride the roads in the Santa Cruz Mountains blindfolded, Gail said. "Lots of people got to know those roads because of him."

But at 63, Prager's journey through life ended too early, his wife said. His preliminary cause of death is a respiratory infection and he had been suffering a nagging respiratory condition for some time, Gail said.

"He had a lot of irons in the fire," she said. "It's so sad that he left us now. He still had a lot to do."

Prager is survived by his wife Gail, their two daughters, Kristin Prager and Maya Nolan and her husband Seamus Nolan.

His daughters said they felt "so lucky to have grown up with such an amazing dad. He never failed every single day to tell us and show us how much he loved us."

The time and location of a memorial service will be posted at calmoto.com, along with information about a tribute ride for Prager.

Comments

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Dale Whyte
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Nov 16, 2010 at 3:15 pm

I am so saddened and shocked to hear of Kari's passing. Such a great person. When my husband and I got back into motorcycling we bought our first BMW at the Mountain View store.

Kari will be missed and remembered with great fondness.

My sincere sympathy to Kari's family.

Dale Whyte
Santa Cruz, CA


 +   Like this comment
Posted by BD
a resident of North Whisman
on Nov 16, 2010 at 3:19 pm

Kari! I am sad to hear of your passing. You will be sorely missed by many! Rest In Peace and Ride for eternity my friend!
Condolences,
Brian David


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Gabe Ets-Hokin
a resident of another community
on Nov 16, 2010 at 3:25 pm

Thank you for writing such a detailed and interesting account of Kari's life.

Gabe Ets-Hokin
CityBike Magazine


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Lisa Malachowsky
a resident of another community
on Nov 16, 2010 at 3:29 pm

I have know Kari for years from working in the motorcycle dealers in the SF Bay Area and then working for him. I know he will be greatly missed. The motorcycle community was a much more fun place with Kari in it. I will personally miss his influence and wonderful personality.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Mike Patton
a resident of another community
on Nov 16, 2010 at 4:10 pm

I met Kari years ago, and we shared a love for R80G/S's. I rode with him multiple times and chased him over the Sierra's both on-road and off, on our R80's. He was a great rider, and ambassador for both the brand and motorcycling in general. You could talk to him about anything from motorcycles to poetry to history. I will think of him often.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by jason
a resident of another community
on Nov 16, 2010 at 5:25 pm

Kari was extremely influencial to many people including myself!!
Kari you will be sorely missed, i love you man!!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Andrea Gemmet
Mountain View Voice Editor
on Nov 16, 2010 at 5:55 pm

Andrea Gemmet is a registered user.

The following comment has been moved from a duplicate thread:

Posted by Hawke, a resident of the Blossom Valley neighborhood, 2 hours ago

God Speed Kari, You will be missed.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Lance
a resident of another community
on Nov 16, 2010 at 6:48 pm

Kari was a great man.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Greg David
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Nov 16, 2010 at 7:53 pm

I first met Kari in the early eighties when he was a regular customer of Eddy's Sport Shop, our family business. He mixed his love of firearms with his love of motorcycles and initiated several cross promotions by displaying new BMW's in our shop. This is what sparked my teenage lust for bikes and initiated what would be become a near thirty year acquaintance to Kari. I've never owned a new car, but I've owned three new BMW's, all from Kari. He was a true master of his game and was an authority in all his hobbies. He is one of the most interesting people I have ever met and I am honored to have been his friend. My deepest condolences go out to his family, colleagues, and countless friends. Kari, you will be truly missed.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Jeff Dean
a resident of another community
on Nov 16, 2010 at 8:13 pm

Kari Prager and I served together on the BMW MOA board of directors. He only served one term and refused to run for re-election in spite of my urging him to do so. In my opinion, he and Rob Lentini (also deceased too young) were the finest board members with whom I ever served.

Clearly, this talented man died way too young. What a sad tragedy. Though I only knew him for the two years were served together on the board, I have always remembered his intellect and talent. He was a unique man.

Jeff Dean
Tucson, Arizona
Web Link


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Robin Barber
a resident of another community
on Nov 17, 2010 at 7:12 am

I've known Kari since we were 14 years old: respected and admired him, been amazed by his unfailing kindness and generousity, learned all manner of good and useful things from him -- such as how to ski alpine and cross-country -- shared hopes and dreams with him. And now I'm trying to understand that he is gone. My sympathies to Gail, Maya, Kristin and all his family and many friends.

Robin Barber, Northampton, Massachusetts


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Chuck Brown
a resident of another community
on Nov 17, 2010 at 8:55 am

I will very much miss Kari. He was a great friend and a great person. His passing makes me very sad.
So long, buddy.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Linda
a resident of Monta Loma
on Nov 17, 2010 at 2:57 pm

I don't know Kari, don't ride bikes, and don't like guns/rifles. But it looks like I missed out on knowing a very interesting, inspiring person. May we all have legacies so rich. My condolences to his family.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Thom
a resident of Jackson Park
on Nov 17, 2010 at 3:48 pm

RIP. You are missed by many.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Mehran Teymourtash
a resident of another community
on Nov 17, 2010 at 4:20 pm

Kari, thanks for the four BMWs I bought from you, dozens of shop rides and countless miles of fun. I will remember you.

Godspeed,

Mehran Teymourtash
www.GroupRides.net


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Dennis Morton
a resident of Monta Loma
on Nov 17, 2010 at 5:02 pm

Kari was a kind and gentle man who would always stop and give you more than a moment of his time during his busy schedule. My daughter Denise went to college with Kari and Gail's daughter Kristin and they all were such a wonderful loving family. I remember Christmas time was very special to the family and they would always have friends over and equip them with squirt guns as everyone sat around the Christmas tree that had real candles burning instead of lights. Kari will be missed by so many that crossed his path in life but the memories and love that he left behind will insure that he left this earth a better place by his being here. He was a great man.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Dan Miller
a resident of another community
on Nov 18, 2010 at 9:32 am

My condolences to Kari's family and friends. I only knew him online from the GB community, but always appreciated his posts and helpful information to others. In peace Kari.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Mark
a resident of another community
on Nov 20, 2010 at 10:55 am

I know Kari has touched many people, I wish I could have known him in person but I feel blessed to know him as I did on a GB Forum. My best to Mrs. Prager and family


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Erika James
a resident of another community
on Nov 20, 2010 at 12:04 pm

I started riding motorcycles late in life (late forties) and found that both Gail and Kari were a great inspiration for me to continue - their shared love of riding inspired me to continue riding, and eventually to marry my "riding buddy." I will always remember Kari's enthusiastic embrace of life!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Matt Smith
a resident of another community
on Nov 22, 2010 at 4:47 pm

Kari helped spur on my life long love of motorcycles and BMWs in particular. As a friend of over 30 years, I am deeply saddened by his passing. The riches of his life are measured in terms of the friends he leaves behind.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Michel
a resident of another community
on Nov 24, 2010 at 3:53 pm

Kari was a true inspiration. A very brillant mind and any conversation with him about any topic was always a treat. His enthusiam, generosity, kindness have always been a reference on how to live a great life. He definitely made the world a better place.
I have been very lucky to have been able to cross path with him.

Borrowing from Winston Churchill: "To meet Kari is like uncorking your first bottle of champage, knowing him is like drinking from it"




 +   Like this comment
Posted by Russ Miller
a resident of another community
on Nov 25, 2010 at 7:37 am

I met Kari on the GB forum - We had many of the same interests. We ended-up meeting for the first time at Kari's house and talked for hours - It was like we had know each other for 50 years. He made me feel welcome, at home and accepted. I cherish the short time that I've had to know him - He was simply a great guy!

We liked to talk about old rifles and history. We were both marksmen and proud of it. He was also a very gentle and humble man.

Kari was intelligent, generous, present and tuned-in. He was a character and was a very funny guy. He was precise - Much more so than I. He was very helpful. He was curious about life.

I will really(already)miss him.

Russ Miller


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Carl
a resident of Monta Loma
on Dec 10, 2010 at 10:12 am

A fine man; a true gentleman. He left a mark. He left us missing him.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Alfred Munkenbeck
a resident of another community
on Dec 11, 2010 at 11:10 am

I was Kari's college roomate and a better more intrguing guy you never want to meet. Being Vermont cross country high school champ did not stop him from winning the intermural downhill when he bothered to enter. His room beside mine had a BMW in pieces all winter which he somehow managed to re-assemble for the spring.

Gail, I felt very sad to hear this from Mary Murtagh... a real tragedy as both Mary and I had been trying to locate Kari for years.

Alfred

(Dartmouth '69 and member of River Tire Co.)

x


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Tom Myers
a resident of another community
on Jan 4, 2011 at 10:24 am

Very sorry, and surprised to hear this. Kari will be missed.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Nell
a resident of another community
on Feb 23, 2011 at 10:58 am

Hey Kari!! I didn't know you had gone!!! I'll never forget your kindness when I was a scared prickly girl on an airplane to Europe for the first time. Thanks for inviting me along to the joy of the day you shared, walking around Brussels.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by David Crabtree
a resident of another community
on Jul 2, 2011 at 7:49 am

Kari, Gail, myself and others taught at the Big House School in the early seventies in Vermont. He hiked me up Mt. Washington to climb Tuckermans ravine and ski down through a several thousand foot vertical bowl, I had no skis so he taught me to glissade. At the end of the grueling climb, perched on a tiny rock together looking straight down he produced a couple of german beers. I still have the R80 G/S he sold me in 1982.
Goodbye with love- Crabo


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Chris Wormuth
a resident of another community
on Aug 31, 2013 at 5:25 am

This was very sad to hear ... I only knew Kari when he worked at BMW Marin and raced AFM, a long long time ago. He was as nice and funny then as he must have been later in life. You don't remember too many people for forty years but Kari was one you did. He was always an exceptional person.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Bruce Balmer
a resident of another community
on Sep 9, 2013 at 2:51 pm

I met Kari and Gail for one day at the Big House School in the early 70s. So sorry to hear of his passing. I remember him being proud of his coffee cup, which could hold nearly a quart of coffee. Seems to be how he lived and rolled.

Bruce


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Mark Andreasen
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 19, 2014 at 3:15 pm

I have just heard of Kari's passing. He was a good friend. We used to drive around the Bay Area in his antique Saab. I should have called earlier, we are all disappearing. The last time I saw Kari his daughter Mara was 3. Gail, I am sorry I haven't kept up. God bless you all.


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