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Friends and community mourn suicide death of Justin Drawbert

Posted by on November 19th, 2012 at 11:04 am

Justin Drawbert: 1986-2012.
(Photos: Nate Gibson)

Friends, fellow racers and classmates are mourning the death of 26-year-old Justin Drawbert, who took his own life on Monday, November 12th.

Justin was an engineering student at Portland State University who moved to Portland in 2009. He was an avid bike racer and competed with the Trailhead Coffee Roasters cycling team. Prior to living in Portland, he was a bike messenger in San Francisco.

Justin’s friends are devastated by the news. Tym Lang, who just returned from participating in a “courier wake” memorial for Justin in San Francisco, shared with me this morning that he and Justin’s large community of friends, “are reeling in shock.”

Tym, who now works at Trailhead in Portland but who met Justin when they worked for the same courier company in San Francisco, said, “We aren’t a community unfamiliar with unexpected deaths of friends, as the nature of the job can be dangerous and I have had more than a few friends and co-workers claimed by accidents (which are hard on their own right), but suicide is not remotely a common occurrence.”

Even Tym, one of Justin’s closest friends, said he never suspected suicide. “I’ve seen his ups and downs, but the downs never were bad enough to make me think something like this could be possible.”

In hearing from several of Justin’s friends, they all mention the same things about him. He was devoted to his school work (although it didn’t come easy for him), he was lighthearted and “goofy,” he loved racing singlespeed cyclocross and short track, and he finished every race he started. No matter what.

Nate Gibson knew Justin both in the classroom and on the race course. “He always had a goofy smile and slightly crooked glasses.”

“The first time I met him was in 2010 at the Barlow [cyclocross] race, running the entire course with a broken bike for lap after lap.”

Justin was known to ride his bike to almost every race he competed in. He was carfree and also a proud vegan. “You could always spot him with a couple carrots sticking out of his jersey pocket in lieu of an energy bar,” Nate shared.

Like Tym, Nate also never suspected Justin was severely depressed. “I never saw any signs of depression.” Nate encouraged me to write this story to highlight the dangers of depression, “even to a talented 26 year old with a bright future.”

Friends said he showed some concerns about losing his school financial aid due to failing a class, but that he didn’t seem particularly down. Tym talked to him just hours before he took his life and said they spoke about a solution for his school funding issue and then Justin talked up plans for a big cross-country bike tour.

On the race course, Justin focused on fun. And he always finished. Tym recalled a race in California in 2008 where Justin got lost in the woods around Mt. Tam; but eventually made it back into Fairfax and finished DFL (racer jargon for “dead fucking last”). “Some people would have just given up then, but not Justin,” Tym recalled.

And Nate said that Justin never once in three years of racing had a single DNF (did not finish). “He would finish the race, no matter what, never giving up despite suffering flats or mechanicals.”

“Quitting was never something he liked to do,” added Tym, “which makes the circumstances of his death all the more confusing.”


There will be a celebration of Justin’s life on Wednesday, November 28th at 6pm at The Sweet Hereafter on SE Belmont between 33rd and 34th.

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  • Esther November 19, 2012 at 11:17 am

    My thoughts and prayers go out to Justin’s family. What a horrible tragedy for everyone involved.

    A note to his friend Tym: often suicide doesn’t feel like “quitting” to a person who is suffering so greatly. It is one of the ways they feel they can actually take control over their pain.
    I hope that anyone who is feeling that level of suffering can find a way to tell their friends or family about it. Please remember there are other solutions and even if you can’t get there yourself, there ARE people who can help you. Jonathan, you may want to post the crisis hotlines here as well. http://www.suicidehotlines.com/oregon.html

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  • Ben Guernsey November 19, 2012 at 11:42 am


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  • Mindful Cyclist November 19, 2012 at 11:48 am

    This is incredibly sad news to hear. As a mental health professional I deal with people that are contemplating suicide on a daily basis. It is often very hard to tell the signs that someone may be having suicidal thoughts. Just never be afraid to ask one of your friends or family members if you suspect they may be suicidal. Contrary to popular belief, talking about it does NOT make a person think about doing it. It helps them understand that someone cares enough to ask.

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  • Millions November 19, 2012 at 1:54 pm

    RIP Justin.

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  • Joe November 19, 2012 at 3:56 pm

    RIP Man.. we ride for you!

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  • nuovorecord November 19, 2012 at 4:01 pm

    Ugh…so sad to hear of such a bright young person no longer with us.

    This is always a hard time of the year for those struggling with depression. As others have already suggested, let’s all vow to reach out to our friends and be extra-kind and supportive. You never know what a difference that one small act of kindness and caring can make in another human being’s life.

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  • Nathan Gibson November 19, 2012 at 5:19 pm

    Thanks for such a kind and well written article. All of Justin’s friends appreciate it greatly. What a great way to honor Justin’s life. We miss you RJ.

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  • Shaina November 19, 2012 at 9:36 pm

    Im his sister and I just want to thank you all for writing such amazing things about my brother Please whoever wants to write me and tell me anything about my brother so i can pass it along to my parents I also have a blog for my parents set up heres my Email if anyone has pics or stories they want to tell… SHainaD23@gmail.com

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    • 007 November 20, 2012 at 7:37 pm

      So sorry for your loss, Shaina.

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  • Kristin November 20, 2012 at 8:07 am

    Im so sorry. My brother took his life four years ago, about this time of year. Losing a brother is something, well, difficult. If you ever need someone to talk to, please drop me a line. If you live here in Portland Im around for a beer, coffee, dog walk, bike ride…hug, etc. Many big hugs to you and your family during this difficult time. It may be hard to hear this now, but it does get easier over time. Big love

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  • Kim November 20, 2012 at 2:06 pm

    Jon thank you for such a nicely written story about Justin. As his housemate of two years I was lucky to of been touched by such an amazing young man. We had our moments-he wasn’t the cleanest in the kitchen. But we loved him no less. We miss him everyday.

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  • Carin November 20, 2012 at 4:24 pm

    As a good friend of Justin’s housemates, I had the privilege of getting to chat with him under a variety of situations. I will always remember his intense values surrounding the many things that he held dear. Justin’s passions for things were remarkable and he could discuss so many things in such detail. I will miss seeing him on the patio, returning from a long ride, and ready to express his most recent observations, political issue or thought for the day. And then there were always his amazing math problem explanations… such brilliance. Justin, I hope you have found peace. I will truly miss you.

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  • Damian November 21, 2012 at 7:14 am

    My heart weighs down for the pain Justin was in, & the pain his family feels. Our family met Justin in his middle sch yrs, which were hard yrs for him. Tho my son maintained contact, i was not aware he went on to make so many friends. Tho heavy-hearted, I am thankful for the friends who 1st reached out to him in his middle sch days, & then those who included him in high school, Cali, & OR. Thank you! He will be missed. He was loved!

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  • Dogwood November 21, 2012 at 7:40 am

    I rode with Justin up Little Switzerland. We were the only ones who showed up for a “group ride”. we had headwinds both ways, and his attitude kept me from going home that day. He made that RB-1 sing.

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  • Suburban September 27, 2014 at 5:54 pm

    Still with you J. every time I click in. Love to your family-take care of your selves pls.

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  • Suburban March 20, 2017 at 10:59 pm

    Im still riding with J in 2017.

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