A longtime Keys woman who recently beat back cancer died in a motorcycle crash over the weekend.
Marathon resident Marlin Joyce Gunter died in a Saturday near mile marker 29. According to several of Gunter's friends, the 51-year-old had just recently overcome cancer related to hepatitis C and was working to regain her physical strength.
Her funeral is Friday.
An avid biking enthusiast, Gunter was a lifetime member and longtime board member of the Southernmost Chapter of American Bikers Aimed Toward Education, or ABATE. Her illness had kept her away from riding until very recently.
"She just spent the last year fighting [cancer] and she beat it. We had a benefit for her just last year and she finally beat it and this tragedy happened," longtime friend Garry Finch said.
Gunter died Saturday afternoon where she'd spent many of her happiest times here in the Keys on the back of a motorcycle.
"She loved riding. I've ridden many miles with her. She didn't ride but she was always on the back of somebody's bike," Finch said.
According to the Florida Highway Patrol, Gunter was aboard a 2004 Harley Davidson ridden by fellow Marathon resident Thomas Bateman, 51, just south of Big Pine Key.
They were reportedly rear-ended by a 1993 Chevrolet driven by 50-year-old Big Pine resident Eric McHenry, which pushed the motorcycle into the rear of a 1990 Jeep driven by Tavernier resident Dean McGinnis.
According to the FHP, Gunter and Bateman were thrown from the motorcycle onto the highway. Gunter was confirmed dead at Fishermen's Community Hospital.
Bateman remains in critical condition at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami. He is reportedly in an induced coma.
Most recently, Gunter, who many described as a hard worker, had been driving the well-known golf cart at Castaway Restaurant that transports customers from parking spaces down the street.
"It's very sad. Joyce was a great lady, Castaway owner John Mirabella said. She had taken about the last eight months off. She just got off that and started driving the cart like two weeks ago. She had a big heart and everyone loved her/
According to the Monroe County Sheriff's Office, there were 21 traffic accidents reported during the busy Fantasy Fest weekend from Friday until 8:30 a.m. Sunday. Gunter's was the 17th traffic-related death this year south of Florida City.
There is a celebration of life for Gunter scheduled for Friday at the Brass Monkey Lounge, in Marathon's Kmart plaza, from 5 until 7 p.m. Her ashes will be spread Saturday morning, with details about the location to be provided at Friday's celebration.