Marilyn Hayward is no longer with us. A family member confirmed the sad news Wednesday afternoon via a post on her Facebook page: “Some of you may or may not know,” wrote Marilyn’s nephew Matt Ford, “But my Aunt was having a difficult time with her brain injury after the accident. Unfortunately she took her own life last weekend and is no longer with us.”
Marilyn was 65 years old. She was the owner of Coventry Cycle Works in southeast Portland and she was very well-known among recumbent riding enthusiasts for both her bent bike evangelism in various online forums and her riding prowess. Known by many of her friends and fans by her riding name of “Tweety,” she competed in endurance events up until 2012 when she was involved in a collision while on a training ride in Washington County. The impact from the collision left her unconscious for two days and in the hospital for over a month. She sustained broken bones and a traumatic brain injury that had lingering impacts to her health even after she left the hospital.
That collision was the second serious brush with death Marilyn experienced. In 1995 she had a serious bout of cancer, then beat the disease through a mix of her trademark tenacity, a strong belief in naturopathy, the power of positive thinking, and ultimately, through cycling. At the recommendation of one of her doctors she was introduced to recumbent bicycles. She bought her first one in 2005 from Sherman Coventry, the founder of Coventry Cycles. Hayward would eventually buy the shop when Coventry retired in 2009.
Marilyn used her background as a computer programmer and financial analyst to build Coventry into a successful shop with six employees whom she referred to as family. If you are interested in a recumbent, a trike, a quad, or any manner of adaptive bike, Coventry is the place to go. It is the quintessential niche bike shop and Marilyn was its guiding light.
In February 2013, still in recovery from her brain injury, Marilyn decided to purchase a second location near her home in Beaverton. Less than one year later, Hayward found herself on the brink of financial disaster. With looming court and medical costs from her 2012 collision and expanding financial commitments from her business.
She blamed her decision to expand into Beaverton on the lingering effects of her brain injury. She was frustrated and angry and struggling to keep everything together.
She reached out to me last December to share her story. It was a cry for help from a woman who had always been strong, fearless, and independent — but who was coming to grips with a scary reality. “I went into the Beaverton store deal as a nutcase,” she told me, “I signed lease papers without reading them, borrowed on credit cards… I was clueless that anything was wrong at the time… The old me would have never done that.”
But despite those challenges, Marilyn was resolved to push on. She persevered.
Marilyn maintained a regular presence on Facebook. A month ago, she shared a photo along with the caption, “Think positive and positive things will happen.” As recently as last week, a friend posted on her page that he missed her and wondered how she was doing. The very next post in her Timeline was the first mention of Marilyn’s death. Now her many friends are flooding her page with photos, remembrances, and memories from her life.
I met Marilyn on the road during the first day of Cycle Oregon in 2006. I commented on the yellow flag she was flying behind her recumbent and shared several miles with her. In my recap of that day’s ride I noted her strength and called her a “breath of fresh air.”
Since then I stayed in touch with Marilyn; but in hindsight, maybe not as much as I should have.
The world was a better, brighter place with Marilyn in it. We all miss her and we share our warm regards and condolences with her family and friends.