By Debbie Hall
Richard “Big Bird” Holcomb died on February 25, but his dedication to serving the community will be an enduring legacy.
Holcomb, 65, of Ridgeway, organized Big Bird’s annual Toy Run to benefit Christmas Cheer years ago, according to Martinsville Sheriff Steve Draper, who worked closely with Holcomb, the Virginia State Police and local law enforcement agencies to help facilitate the ride for at least 20 years.
Holcomb “cared about people. He cared about young people. I guess that’s why Christmas Cheer was so near to his heart,” Draper said.
When young people came to his shop, Big Birds Big Twins, Draper said Holcomb scoured his inventory for whatever motorcycle part needed. If a young person didn’t have all the money needed to pay for the part, Holcomb “worked it out” so the customer took the part when they left.
Although Holcomb suffered with various health issues for years, he persisted. Holcomb attended the 2019 Toy Run even though he was physically unable to ride, Draper said, and recalled that Holcomb sat on the tailgate of his pickup truck as participants started the ride from the Elks Club parking lot on Fairy Street in Martinsville.
Holcomb also was there when the riders returned, Draper said, and recalled the Christmas 2020 Toy Run “was the only time he couldn’t physically get there.”
Because of his deteriorating health, Draper visited Holcomb a few days before the event and asked if he wanted to watch the ride from a window in his home. Due to his health, Holcomb declined.
Holcomb “will be greatly missed. He suffered long enough,” Draper said. “He’s no longer suffering and he’s in a better place.”
Ray Reynolds met Holcomb during the initial Jennifer Short ride, which was organized by Joe Bryant and Todd Turner to raise funds for Crimestoppers.
Holcomb led the event, and “from then on, Big Bird asked me to attend rides and take photos. I participated in more than 50 rides with him,” Reynolds said. Holcomb “loved kids and he loved elderly people too. He helped raise money when needed to help with burial expenses. He helped anybody and everybody in the community who needed help.”
Draper also worked with Holcomb on numerous other events, and many were familiar with Holcomb’s spirit of community service, including Clay Campbell, president of Martinsville Speedway.
After learning about Holcomb’s death, Draper recalled that “Clay said, ‘it’s a shame,’” and remarked that Holcomb was “’a big man with a big heart.’”