Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Tribute to a Friend, Cyclist, Husband, Father, Community Leader, Hero

The first time I met Dale was in first grade. He sat in front of me in Mrs. Johnson's class. He kidded me about my blonde hair - as I was the only blonde boy in class. I joked about his Dutch-boy hair cut. We became instant friends.

He is among some of the oldest and dearest friends I have. They say as you get older, the number of close friends dwindles. My friends from those days numbered in the twenties and while I have picked up friends along the way, my old friends from my childhood days now number in the low teens. We grew up together Dale and I, part of a small pack of boys who used to ride our bikes everywhere we went. We liked girls but were afraid of them, the boys and I. Dale and I and a few friends would always like to hike the woods beyond our pasture to play Cowboys and Indians or some old west TV show that happened to be the in thing at the time. Sometimes, with our cowboy hats on, we'd spy through the heavily wooded thicket on the neighborhood girls, just to figure out what on earth they talk about. We were just boys and we were totally clueless, but we laughed anyway.

We eventually played football, went out for tennis, played a few seasons of baseball and even shared a passionate interest in art and science. He became the radio deejay/cyclist/all-around-jock/pharmaceutical rep while I became the broadcaster/cyclist/designer/physicist.
Eventually, we chose our different paths in many ways, but we always stayed in very close touch, even getting getting for dinners with old friends at Georgia games, planning cycling events together and dinners with his new wife and eventually playing football with his kids in the backyard.

The last time I saw my friend Dale was at the 100-mile cycling event (also called a century) in Albany, Georgia this past September 13th. It was a hot humid day, but Dale, Charles, Marshall, Jerry, Tony, John and I made it through the winding miles of hot Georgia asphalt with an excellent time to boot!
We were all looking forward to the other century in Claxton, GA - the big event of the fall where they feed you really well and cyclists like us find comfort in the camaraderie of other passionate cyclists. That would have been our final cyclist event before the onset of winter (well we still bike then, too).

On Monday evening, I got word from Dale's family that he had been killed while cycling. I was horrified and still am. I am still beyond grief and still coming to terms with the world losing a really good guy - an accomplished cyclist, a successful businessman, a good father and loving husband. But while knowing I'm being selfish, I realize I have lost my one of my childhood friends. It almost echoes of the last few minutes of "Stand By Me" friend is gone and I am left.

While many will grieve his loss in such a tragic way - his wife, college-age kids, co-workers, and life-long friends, we realize he was taking while doing what he loved: cycling. Some people want to be taken while they sleep. I want to go the same way Dale did - doing what I love to do and being with the people I love.

If this one episode of life teaches us anything it is that caution is required when driving near a cyclist. We see you and we hope you see us. We share the road together as we make our way to where we are both going. We don't mean to be a nuisance, we're just doing what Dale loved to do - taking our bikes and cycling while enjoying the freedom of the open road. It's just us, our bike and our pedal power that separates us from pure heaven.

Rest in peace Dale. We all love you and will miss you until we see you in Heaven.

"Death is swallowed up; victory is won! Oh death, where is thy victory? Oh death, where is thy sting?"

1 Corinthians 15:54-55


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