Harley-riding historian Stan Ellsworth, former host of BYUtv’s ‘American Ride,’ dies at 63
After surviving a severe case of COVID-19 in 2020, Ellsworth continued to be bedridden in hospitals and care facilities through the final years of his life
Stan Ellsworth, the Harley-riding historian with a skull rag and shoulder-length blond hair who once hosted BYUtv’s “American Ride,” died on March 30 due to complications from COVID-19, a stroke and heart failure. He was 63.
One of his life’s aspirations was to make history “cool,” said Stacey Ellsworth, his wife.
“People would be flipping through the channels and come across this big biker guy, denim and leather, talking about history, and they’re like, ‘Wait. What?’” she said. “He didn’t fit the mold. Typically, you would see a professor in a sweater vest and a bow tie. He wanted to change the way people thought about history. You can make history cool. Wrap it in chrome and leather. Ride across America to where these things happened, get to the heart of the stories. That’s exactly what he did.”
Who was Stan Ellsworth?
- Ellsworth served in the France Toulouse Mission of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
- He graduated from Brigham Young University with a degree in history and was part of the BYU football team, according to his obituary.
- Ellsworth loved football and spent several years coaching football at various schools and levels of competition.
- He held acting roles in various films during his career, including the 2006 film, “Churchball,” “The Luck of the Irish” (2001) and others.
- From 2011 to 2016, Ellsworth was the host of “American Ride,” a show in which Ellsworth rode a Harley-Davidson and recounted significant events in American history. He won a regional Emmy for best host in 2012.
- Ellsworth is the author of “Renegades and Rebels: Epic and True Stories of Our Revolutionary Heroes.”
What happened to Stan Ellsworth?
In July 2020, Ellsworth spoke with the Deseret News about surviving a severe case of COVID-19.
While his health felt improved at the time, Ellsworth never fully recovered. He continued to be bedridden in hospitals and care facilities. He suffered a stroke in January 2021 and his health deteriorated from there, Stacey Ellsworth said.
“He always kept such a positive attitude,” she said. “He never once said, ‘Why me? Why did this happen?’ I wish things could have been different.’ He never said that. He always would just tell me like, ‘I know that my Heavenly Father has a plan for me.’”
Stacey Ellsworth said she got a job as a certified nursing assistant at the facility where her husband was being treated so she could help care for him.
His condition worsened in February of this year when Stan Ellsworth contracted COVID-19 a second time. With his lungs already compromised, his wife said, his oxygen levels dropped low and he struggled to breathe. He also had other health problems that required surgery.
“He said he was exhausted. He said, ‘I’m done. I’m ready to go home,’” Stacey said. “One of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make in my life was to respect that decision.”
How Stan Ellsworth will be remembered
Family members will remember Ellsworth for his patriotism, his passion for learning and teaching history, and his larger-than-life personality, among other things.
Before his health declined, Ellsworth occasionally spoke to youth groups.
“He had such a gift for speaking. He was so articulate in the way he was able to express himself. It was so beautiful,” his wife said. “The comments he would get back about what a difference he had made with the young people, he said that meant more to him than anything else he had ever done in his life.”
Scott Ellsworth said his older brother was always reading a history book, including anything he could find on Gen. George S. Patton or the world wars. He said Stan Ellsworth had a talent for recalling information he had learned on the spot.
“Most people don’t know the show (“American Ride”) was unscripted,” said Scott, who says he has watched each episode of “American Ride” multiple times. “They would say, ‘OK, we’re talking about World War I and (Gen. John J.) Pershing leading the Americans into the trenches — go,’ and he would just start talking because he knew all that stuff cold.”
Stan Ellsworth was a man of moral character. He once turned down a lucrative movie deal because he didn’t want to do nude scene involving a female actress. But he delighted in making movies and loved having a role in “Churchball” even though he didn’t really play basketball, Scott Ellsworth said.
“The Stan I knew ... was a very loving, very faith-centered man who put God first and made sure that he was always there for his family. That’s who he absolutely was, through and through and at the core.” — Gregg Ellsworth
“He played baseball, football and rugby. He was not a basketball player,” Scott said. “It was always a little strange to me. But he was a larger-than-life guy with a lot of muscles and he loved to use them.”
One thing Gregg Ellsworth had in common with his oldest brother was they both served Latter-day Saint missions in France. They often held private conversations in French, reminiscing about fun experiences, the food, people and culture.
Gregg’s favorite memories of his brother came when he set aside the bravado, muscles and personality for one-on-one conversations about life. He said Stan never complained about his personal trials. Stan once told Gregg, “You never pray for lighter burdens. You pray for broader shoulders and a strong back.”
“The Stan I knew, in addition to all that, was a very loving, very faith-centered man who put God first and made sure that he was always there for his family,” he said. “That’s who he absolutely was, through and through and at the core.”
Stan Ellsworth’s funeral service is scheduled for Saturday, April 15, at noon. For additional details, read his obituary on independentfuneralservices.com.
A fundraiser on GoFundMe was created to help the family with medical and funeral expenses.