Blair Bicycle Club is not just a group of bicycle riders. Nor is the club simply a group of friends. The members of our bicycle club are family. Together we share a hobby that takes us past green pastures, over babbling brooks, and through the cool breeze of a summer's day. When our bicycle club loses a member, it affects us all. So, in our own modest way, we offer this memorial for those riders we have lost.
William J. Taafe Jr.
May 26, 1942 - Jan. 25, 2013
From motorcycles to snowboards, on-road cycling and rail trail riding Bill Taafe was a man on the move. A major supporter of The Bike MS: Keystone Country Ride he was more than a fundraiser. He was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1984.
"Riding is one way I try to keep myself in shape, try to keep healthy," Taafe, said. "Because I have diabetes, it helps in that respect, too."
Bill owned Spokes-N-Skis, a bike shop in Altoona. He closed the store for the event - all of the employees in the shop participated, and the business supplied a support truck to help with bike repairs along the route.
Gary C. Kephart
Jan. 7, 1950 - Oct. 3, 2012
Excerpts from Altoona Mirror article by John Fredrick:
I had not ridden much with Gary in recent years but did enjoy a mountainous 100-mile ride with him and a group of mostly 50-something riders in September 2009. Gary, only a few months from his 60th birthday and the oldest person on the ride, out rode all of us on several long climbs.
Just like the Gary of the 1970's, he offered no arrogant boasting of his accomplishment. But you could tell how pleased he was. But it will now be only memories of rides gone by that I will savor, as Gary died riding down Carson Valley Road 10 days ago - on Wednesday, Oct. 3.
A tremendous bicyclist for the better part of four decades, he was more importantly a happily married man and a proud father and grandfather.
It's easy these days to be turned off by the unsportsmanlike behavior, skyrocketing salary demands, drug scandals and unseemly behavior of all kinds by athletes. A guy like Gary Kephart, who did it for the love of the sport and pleasure of enjoying a beautiful place, stands out as an example of the way it ought to be. I was mighty fortunate to have known him.
Kenneth J. Voytko
Sep. 4, 1959 - May 6, 2010
"A Collection of Thoughts" by Marianne
Although Ken had been cycling only two years he quickly rose to the top of his game and had a true love and passion for the sport. We did many long rides together the past 18 months. A unique bond is developed with someone you spend so much time with on the road. Mutual respect, admiration, a type of love that's hard to define. Ken truly cared for others. Last Saturday we rode our final century together. We spoke of our love for long rides and ones we planned to do together this coming season. He brought me a very detailed bike map of Pittsburgh to help me get around this weekend, whether by bike or foot and made it a point to come over and talk to John: wishing him well with his surgery this weekend. That's what kind of guy he was. My heart breaks for his family, friends, co-workers, and cycling partners. He'll be very sorely missed by all of us.
January 21, 1987
To many, Ken Steel is a hero because of the way he died, but he is a hero to me for the way he lived. I met him on a bike ride to State College at the end of my freshman year in college. Though 17 or 18 years older than me and my classmates, by mile 60, none of us could stay with him. When someone noted his name was Steel, we first thought it was a nickname, as in “Man of Steel.”
He began riding seriously while he was in the service in Hawaii and decided he’d ride back to Altoona after his discharge in San Francisco in 1963. He would do two other cross-country rides — from Altoona to Seattle in 1970 and San Diego to Altoona the following summer.
Each summer, he’d try to do at least one long trip. Even into his 40's, the mileage Ken would tally on these trips was staggering. A 1980 trip to see Mount St. Helen's continued eastward to Des Moines, Iowa, covering 2,136 miles in 17 days. He averaged just under 140 miles a day on his 1983 ride from Las Vegas to Oklahoma City. He twice rode the Onondaga 24-hour marathon race in New York, riding over 300 miles both years.
Ken would do his best to encourage anyone he could, not just to ride, but to see and absorb the natural splendor through which they passed. But it would be those long rides (and long cross-country ski treks) through beautiful places that gave him the greatest pleasure and satisfaction.
Altoona Mirror writer John Frederick memorialized Ken in this column.