Tonya Bittick thinks the world of her brother. He is seven years her senior and looked out for her and taught her a lot as she was growing up, but one day, about a month shy of her 15th birthday, things changed when a woman backed out of a 7-11 Store and clipped the tire of his motorcycle.
George Pangratz, known to the family as ‘Tracy,’ flew 70 feet into the air and spent the next six months in a coma. Doctors told Tonya and her mother that he would never come off life support, had almost no brain function and would never walk or talk again. But lots of prayers, therapy and patience has proven them wrong.
Tracy talks and makes friends wherever he goes, from the Forsyth Dollar Store to Walmart. He is able to walk and deals with the back pain standing or sitting too long causes him with minimal complaints. But his memory and some mental functions limit what he can do on his own.
Tracy joined the U.S. Navy when he was 18 and had served three years before the accident. Although hesitant to leave Tracy’s care to her mother alone, at her mother’s urging Tonya joined the Navy and served from 1994-2000. They are both proud of their country and proud of their service.
Many things changed for Tonya and Tracy, but their close relationship and their love for motorcycles hasn’t changed. Tonya said that Tracey was teaching her to ride his Yamaha and would come by to take her for a ride and take her to school each morning. They had done that the morning before the accident, which happened on Tracy’s way to work.
They would love to be able to ride together again, and Tonya hopes she has found a way that they can. There is a contest for a custom-designed ‘Dream Chopper’ by Paul Teutul Sr. of “Orange County Choppers.” Tonya’s story was accepted to the contest; it just needs the most votes to make the dream come true.
It costs nothing to vote on the Orange County Choppers website, but each person can only cast one vote per day. Tonya is asking people in Monroe County to help her make her brother’s dream of riding again come true. She said Teutul’s experience and skill would make it possible for him to design a bike that would be comfortable and safe enough for Tracy. She envisions a three-wheel bike that looks like a regular chopper in front but is wide enough for a seat in back where Tracy can recline at an angle to relieve his back pain. The balance of a three-wheel vehicle will keep him from feeling all the bumps of the road and make it safe.
Tonya said Tracy is excited about the prospect and asks her how the voting is going. She said he always points out motorcycles they see on the road and always stops to listen when he hears one until the sound of the motor fades.
“If he could ride again, he would be in heaven. No one deserves it more,” said Tonya. “He asks, ‘Is my bike here, yet?’ He’s so positive about it.”
She explains to him that the contest is a long process. First they had to be accepted in the contest, now they have to make the top 15, the deadline for which is Thursday, July 22 at 10 p.m. Voting begins again and they have to make the top 10. The final round of voting is for the final 5. She feels confident they will make the top 15 because they entered last year and made it to 3rd or 4th. Tonya said family members and friends were wonderful about voting, but it was very disappointing after they got so close.
Tonya said to have a custom bike built that would be safe and comfortable for Tracy would probably cost $50-60,000; so the contest seems the only way of making it happen. She said just riding to town on the bike would make him so happy, but she dreams of being able to take him up the coast to visit family in Pennsylvania or even on the Route 66 trip.
Tonya, Tracy and their mother moved to Monroe County in late 2010 to be closer to family. In 2011 Tonya began working for the Bibb County Sheriff’s Department; she was also a volunteer firefighter for Monroe County for a couple of years. Since she retired from Bibb County in 2021 she has worked for Forsyth Tractor Supply and Forsyth KOA Campground. She said they love living in Monroe County because they feel it is a safe place where they can be friendly without worrying about someone taking advantage of Tracy’s kind-hearted, generous nature.
“He’s amazing,” said Tonya. “I just want him to be happy.”
The link to the contest is https://dreamchopper.com/2021/tonya-holyko-bittick.