Friday, February 07, 2014

Remembering Austin King

Austin King passed away on March 21, 2013.  It was untimely in the most awful of circumstances since he was a victim of crime. It remains a shock, tragedy and everlasting question of "why." Austin was best described by Sally who said he was an anchor. She meant that in every physical and metaphorical sense of the word.  Blair commented that Austin, in his quiet and polite manner, understood his fellow cyclists more than the rest of us understand each other.  These observations about Austin are reflected in the poem below.

It's a poem constructed to be read aloud as it was during a dedication ride July 7, 2013. It's also directed to an audience that knows where Austin would position himself during a group ride--at the back, as an anchor. He served as the guy who placed himself between the pack and any cyclist who dangled off the back, struggling to hang on.  If necessary, he'd fall back to pull that person back to the group. 

On the July ride, about 80 cyclists gathered at Conte's in Virginia Beach to ride out to the Creeds store and back as a dedication ride.  55 miles is a long dedication ride.  However, it was Austin's routine on Sunday to do this loop, so it seemed best to honor him this way.  Also, he had purchased a bike rack for the store a couple of years before since the store marked a common layover for cyclists riding in the rural part of Virginia Beach.  He made the purchase and paid for the installation without any big announcements.

Austin contributed in other selfless ways to the cycling community.  It is common in cycling to help with the promotion of bike races IF a person is a racer.  However, Austin helped with races for no other reason but to support the racers on the team since he did not race himself. He worked behind the scenes at about 40 Tripower-sponsored road events dating back to the mid-90's. He hauled and set up hay bales, cones, extension cords, and caution tape for races held in Downtown Norfolk, at Little Creek Amphibious base, at Mt. Trashmore, and even a few in Smithfield. 

The July dedication included the installation of 3 benches:  2 at the Creeds store and 1 at Conte's.  Numerous contributors made this happen.  We gathered there at Creeds with Austin's wonderful family.  His wife Melanie spoke to us and said so eloquently how much Austin enjoyed the rides and the people.  I felt strange hearing how much he enjoyed us when I had always viewed Austin as one we relied so heavily upon rather than the other way around.  It made me think about how much we all really need each other.

In Memoriam, Austin King

Summer came slowly

stalled by an April chill

without you here.

Winter lingered

as if waiting for the deep frost

of losing the kindest of souls to melt.

What hasn’t melted is the mirage

of you here safely in our pack.

I shiver, you shake a full fingered ski glove:

“Oh quit complaining you’ll be sorry when it’s hot.”

You would laugh at me now,

standing here sweltering in July,

your predictable annotation:

“You’re going to read a POEM—in spandex!?”


Yes, and I had to train for this ride

designed to trace your path, your Sunday, your church

to Creeds,

and I have no idea how I’m getting back in cell range

without the steady, sure, reliable wheel

called Austin King.

Over the years, between raising kids,

chasing work, breaking in pets,

we slide back to your bar, your clean well lit space

to catch an inside joke you make

only loud enough for one at a time to hear.

Where I try to vent about the pace

ramped up too high, too fast,

You say, “Oh, quit complaining.  We’d both be up front

if we could.”


I’ve heard you called an anchor,

a bookend to counterbalance the tipping weight

of a disciplined lead train.

But you understood

we don’t measure our ship by its anchor

or even by its mighty topmast or figurehead.

But by its journey, its miles logged,

its solitary movement through time.


We gauge the success of Canada Geese

when gathered in a Boulevard median,

not by the goslings’ brave steps into traffic

nor the matriarch’s warning squawks

but we applaud them making the journey

across four lanes

as a flock compacto

to carry on the legacy

of our dear friend.

1 comment:

Kelley said...

Nice tribute, Liz.