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The Student Voice of UNC Asheville

The Blue Banner

The Student Voice of UNC Asheville

The Blue Banner

Honoring the life of Silke Crombie

Flowers and notes left in front of a wall decorated with an image of Silke Crombie on her motorcycle.
Morgan Giddings
Flowers and notes left in front of a wall decorated with an image of Silke Crombie on her motorcycle.

Motorcyclist and Assistant Director ​for​ Reservations and Events Services Silke Crombie has died of a brain aneurysm and cardiac arrest. She was 56.

Mack Truck sales representative Andrea Blake said Crombie’s talent on the track was something to strive for and her love of nature, hiking and her dogs made Blake love her more.

“Silke’s laugh was contagious and her motorcycle repairing and riding skills were more than impressive to many. She and I both raced CB350s and I only wanted to catch her long braided hair, but knew that wasn’t going to happen,” Blake said.

According to Blake, Crombie’s final day was on Oct. 7 at the Barber Race track in Birmingham, Alabama. She went unconscious while on the track. Miraculously, her sidecar rig with her copilot, Wendy Stefaniak, were able to safely slow to a stop. Crombie was on life support for six days before the decision was made.

“One thing about this sport is that you’re never promised tomorrow. That’s why I always hug people, because we’re racers, we sign our life away before we even get on the track,” sidecar racer Dustin Richards said. “I just wish I got to hang out with her more.”

According to Richards, Crombie always had a smile and she was never down. If she was, no one would know anything about it. 

“The last time I ever saw her, I was running over to my competition and she yells over ‘Hey! I haven’t got my hug yet!’ and I stopped dead in my tracks, spun around, ran over and gave her a hug. I am so glad that I got to do that,” Richards said. 

According to Richards, Crombie was hardcore and intimidating. 

“When you get to know her, she’s a babydoll, a sweetheart, all of that really supersedes. She was real, she was honest. She didn’t bend the truth for nobody, hands down. She was so compassionate,” Richards said.

Executive Director of the American Historic Racing Motorcycle Society Daniel May said Crombie was a personal friend of his for many years, and she will be missed among her racing friends. The AHRMA family extends their deepest condolences to Crombie’s family.

“Silke was known for her loving smile, her German wit, and her passion for everything, particularly racing motorcycles. Silke’s impact on our lives will forever be remembered,” May said. “As we mourn the loss of her physical presence, let us also celebrate the beautiful moments we shared and the positive influence she had on all of us.”

Associate VC for Student Affairs Melanie Fox said she has known Crombie for almost 20 years, about the same amount of time they have been working together for the university. 

“When she would talk about her trips or her races, you could see the glimmer in her eye. I even think of the time she rode her motorcycle in the Homecoming parade, she loved a good adventure, even if it got her hurt! That is another thing I admired about Silke, was her ability to work through pain as though it was nothing. She would have a broken foot and still be at work, running around the building,” Fox said. 

Fox said Crombie was a ball of energy. You wouldn’t find her sitting for long. If you wanted to find her, you’d have to walk around a while to do it. In fact, many of her interactions with Crombie were with Fox following her around Highsmith trying to keep up.

“We shouldn’t be lazy or still for long, instead we should get out there and live life! Do what you love with who you love! Because we don’t know when we won’t be able to do that anymore. Silke always lived life to the fullest in both work and play,” Fox said. 

Fox said Crombie’s biggest contribution is her work ethic and her willingness to help anyone out in a moment’s notice. Whenever anyone needed a helping hand, Crombie was always there, without complaint.

“One thing I always remember about her is that she could never be satisfied with where her glasses were. She would constantly transition them from her nose to her head and vice versa. This was indicative of the type of energy she had all the time. She was never still, always on the move, and her brain followed suit,” Fox said. 

Highsmith Office Manager Deidra Newman said Crombie spoke her mind and never met an animal or motorcycle she didn’t love.

“We were working an event at Kimmel Arena, we were walking over there together and she kept walking so fast I could barely keep up! She always walked so fast, most of us had to run to keep up. One time I told her that I’m going to walk at my pace, not hers. She laughed & kept hauling,” Newman said.

Abbeville High School English teacher Christopher Land said Crombie was sometimes their leader, frequently their instigator and always the tough, loving German auntie to the motorcycling community. 

Associate Director of Programming Anna Claire Jackson said Crombie had a strong presence. She was a force from the moment they met.Crombie didn’t much care for small talk either, which made an interesting lunch interview for Jackson.

“She had so much historical knowledge about Highsmith Student Union – she worked here almost 20 years. Anytime a question came up about why or how something came about, in her German accent, I can hear her saying, “In the past…” And Silke was long-winded! You knew you were in for long stories when she started with that,” Jackson said. 

Associate Director of Leadership Education and Development Alex Hollifield said Crombie was one of her dear friends at UNC Asheville. 

“She lived her life with raw authenticity, always speaking her mind and showing up as her truest, bravest self. Her legacy is the physical space of Highsmith and the years of transforming spaces to meet the needs of our campus community,” Hollifield said. 

Crombie was the core of the Highsmith team for several years, said Director of University Events Silvia Meyer.

“She worked fast and tried to fulfill all sorts of requests making the reservations and setup tasks look easy. She could always be counted on to pull off some last minute requests, or a program that may have required several people to pull off. She was a constant force in the Union, making sure things happened and filling in as needed,” Meyer said.

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