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A Personal Rememberance by John Allen, League Board Member
In 1972, I was halfway home with a flat tire and walked into a bike shop that was just closing. Sheldon stayed late to fix it. That's how I first met him.
There were 46 bicycles in or around his house "with a few shared wheels", by his recent count, mostly in his basement. He didn't buy bicycles off the shelf -- as a challenge to his mechanical ingenuity, and a way to spend less money and spend more time doing what he liked to do, he cobbled up customized bicycles from parts he acquired mostly through special deals, barter or secondhand, to suit himself or someone in his family. He often came up with a something unique, clever and useful. You may read about his bicycles on his Web site.
Much more history could go here...later for that. A friend described him this way in an e-mail this morning: "He knew more about bicycles than anyone else I know, as was always happy to share what he knew."
He developed primary progressive multiple sclerosis starting about 2 years ago, affecting his legs. He had increasing trouble walking, used a cane and walker Lemonade out of lemons, serving his lifelong interest in photography: he drilled a hole through the handle of the cane so he also could use it as a monopod for his camera. He could no longer ride a bicycle because he lacked the coordination and leg strength to mount or dismount. He rode a Greenspeed recumbent tricycle slowly.
You wouldn't have known about his illness from his correspondence, except when he openly mentioned it. He hated euphemisms and didn't mince words: he wrote "I am now a cripple." He remained upbeat, active and involved and said that his illness was much harder for Harriet to take than for him, though "it's damn inconvenient." With his usual mechanical ingenuity, he had bought a hoist secondhand and rigged it to lift his electric 4-wheel scooter in and out of the back of his minivan, and that's how he got around.
But it was a massive heart attack rather than the MS that ended his life last night. He was 63.
He leaves Harriet, a PhD professor of mathematics and computer science at Northeastern University, and the first American woman to complete Paris-Brest-Paris. You may read about that too, on her Web site. Her opening line when she first met Sheldon: "I see you're riding fixed." And then he noticed that she was riding a Holdsworth, a high-grade British bike of the day.
Bicyclists and computer gurus mixed at their wedding in 1979. Would you believe that my seat was next to that of artificial intelligence guru Marvin Minsky? It was. Sheldon and Harriet rode away on a tandem.
Their two children, George and Tova, are both now doctoral students in mathematics.
Sheldon was widely read, with a special interest in science fiction.
Favorite quote from Sheldon :
"Everyone I know in bicycling is at least a little bit crazy, present company included."
Amen, to which I would add, the craziness I know in bicyclists often leads in good directions, or the bicycling keeps it within bounds. I know of a lot of people *not* in bicycling who are very much crazier :-)
Favorite quote about him, I don't recall from whom:
"When they made him, they threw away the mold."
This afternoon, I went out for a bike ride. That always helps get
I stopped at the post office in a neighboring town and a woman in line ahead of me was saying that everyone is depressed because the Boston Patriots lost the Super Bowl game last night. Well, we all have our troubles, I guess.
John S. Allen
Regional Director for New York and New England, League of American Bicyclists League Cycling Instructor #77-C and Member of the League's Education Committee