The biking bishop: one righteous dude

By Amy Makechnie

For the Deseret News

Published: Thursday, Aug. 2 2012 5:00 a.m. MDT

In the mood for ice-cream on a summer afternoon, 2011, Owen Sansoucie sits on the back of his father's '05 Road King at Johnson's Dairy Bar in Northwood, N.H.

Shane Sansoucie

Thousands of bikers recently roared their way through small, picturesque towns for New Hampshire's 89th annual Bike Week.

Riders typically ride in intimidating packs, on loud bikes, wearing black leather.

Shane Sansoucie is one of those riders. He can look like one bad dude with his shaved head and linebacker build. But on Sundays, Sansoucie changes out of his leather for a more traditional Sabbath day outfit: jacket, shirt and tie.

He's got another title that's not biker. It's bishop.

Sansoucie began riding as a kid, when his father, who hated motorcycles, used them as leverage for high academic success. It worked. In the sixth grade, Sansoucie had his first motorized vehicle: an off-road Honda ATC, 110. He was hooked.

As a Mormon growing up in quiet Bedford, N.H., Sansoucie was used to being an anomaly. People knew he was different, but “I didn't try to hide what I was." A good kid who attended church and seminary, he was also the lead singer of a heavy metal band, covering songs from Christian metal band Striper.

At 18, Sansoucie began dating Danielle, a girl he'd known since they were 7, and they eventually married.

The young couple barely scraped by. With former dreams of becoming a pilot, Sansoucie instead worked 70 hours, six days a week as an iron worker. Tithing was a challenge.

"The bishop kept telling us to get back on track but we were still having a rough time," he said. They decided they would heed their bishop's advice and, to this day, have no idea how they survived. "The math didn't work. It still doesn't," Sansoucie adds.

They moved forward, albeit not always easily. Their third son, Owen, wasn't supposed to live. Doctors told them to consider termination. Sansoucie though, believes the boy's journey started well before he was born. It was a long pregnancy, but one filled with great faith and prayer. Owen was born with Down syndrome but is now a strong, healthy teenager.

“All the research doesn't make sense," Sansoucie said. "He was a miracle to begin with."

The whole family counts Owen as a great blessing. Sansoucie says, "To see life through his eyes where he doesn't judge anyone or have any expectations, doesn't think anyone could do him harm, really has taught us the unconditional love of the Savior, no matter what you do."

All four of Sansoucie’s children ride with their dad as soon as they can sit upright. Over the years there have been nine bikes: Two Kawasakis, three Hondas, a Suzuki and three Harleys. Currently, the ride of choice is a 2007 Harley Davidson Electraglide Ultra Classic FLHTCU.

Some bikes last a season, others for years. The fun for Sansoucie is finding a different and challenging new ride, especially when he can buy low and sell high. Then, he enthusiastically says, "You get paid to ride!"

Sansoucie's favorite family activity usually involves riding, Danielle being his favorite companion. He even bought her a bike for Mother's Day one year. She shook her head and said he was crazy. Sansoucie laughs, loving his wife's reaction.

Six years ago, Sansoucie received another shock — he was called to serve as bishop of his congregation, an unpaid ministry often lasting five to six years. It was humbling. "When you think about your bishop," he says, "he's your spiritual leader. I didn't think I could meet that expectation."

But both of Sansoucie's parents were service-oriented. That part came naturally. He began keeping the Book of Mormon on his desk at work, prompting many discussions.

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