(Photo: Ira Ryan Cycles/Flickr)
Steve Gitchell, a man well-known locally for his friendly demeanor and love of riding bikes, passed away on January 15th. According to the Oregon Herald, he was found in his home in Newberg by a neighbor and his death is believed to have been from natural causes. I didn’t know Steve personally, but I distinctly remember his on-the-bike style, his classy, long mustache, and his gorgeous Pereira Cycles randonneuring bike. He was 64 years old.
Portland resident Theo Elliot counted Steve as a friend and shared memories and photos of him on Flickr. Theo met him three years ago on the train en route to a Oregon Randonneurs event. It was a 200 km brevet, Theo recalled, which is short by randonneuring standards. “He would tell me,” Theo recalled on the phone today, “That he’s too old to have to prove himself on 600 km events.”
Many people knew Steve for his two bikes; an orange Ira Ryan and his Pereira. According to Theo, Steve was an Oregon native who lived in northwest Portland until moving to small house in Newberg a few months ago. “He wanted to live in the country,” Theo said.
Theo remembered Steve’s stories from the Vietnam War (where he served) and how he was always friendly, engaged, and interested in whatever they talked about. Before retiring, Steve was a garbage man with a route in the Milwaukie and Sellwood areas. “He was proud of his work,” Theo recalled, “we remember him as a ‘bad-ass garbage man’.”
(Photo: James Wilson/Flickr)
Theo and several other friends — including Steve’s stepson Draeger who was in town from New York to settle Steve’s affairs — got together for a Steve Gitchell Memorial Ride on Sunday.
Steve appeared in a story here on BikePortland back in April 2009 as one of the happy new residents of a bike-friendly condominium in northwest Portland. He told our writer Marion Rice that he’d been riding bikes since 1972 and hoped to someday ride in the Paris-Brest-Paris.
I’ve heard from several people in the past few days that knew of Steve, his trademark mustache, and his custom bikes. He must have ridden a lot because he seemed to pop up in all sort of places. As is often the case, now many of those people (including myself) wish they’d gotten to know him better.
Rest in peace Steve.