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secondsummertours.com » 2010 » June

Monthly archive of June 2010

 
 

In Memory of Joanne Penseyres

Joanne Penseyres at the Maui Triple Challenge

To most of you in the cycling community, it won’t come as a surprise that I first met Joanne and Pete Penseyres at a bike race in Southern California. The year was 1976. Inflation continued to be a problem around the world. Concorde entered service and cut transatlantic flying time to 3 1/2 hours. One year after Microsoft was formed Apple was formed by Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak. In South Africa, riots in Soweto marked the beginning of the end of apartheid. Record of the year was “Love Will Keep Us Together” by Captain and Tennille; Album of the year was Paul Simon’s “Still Crazy After All These Years”. Best picture was “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” staring best actor Jack Nicholson.

If you were a friend of Joanne and her 1000 watt smile – and who wasn’t – you also ended up getting Pete as part of the package. They sort’a came as a pair I soon learned. While cycling in all forms was a significant part of Joanne’s world, it would be unfair to define her legacy solely in terms of all things two wheels.

I still remember thinking at that first meeting in Acton, California that Pete had done pretty good for himself, being an “old” man and such, to marry the cute blond that was so full of youthfull energy. That was over 3 decades ago, and my opinion of what constitutes old age has changed considerably over the years.

Joanne’s passions were many, but teaching, the church, and family were especially high on her life list … and, of course, the outdoors – especially the sport of cycling.

Maybe a bit of an understatement but Joanne was always up for an adventure – whether supporting a cross-country bike effort, or getting on a tandem herself for some two wheel fun. Before the intense RAAM cycling years, Joanne would join Pete for hiking, camping, and backpacking trips with family and friends.

I remember one memorable backpack trip to the California Sierra mountains that almost ended in disaster when Joanne slipped on an ice patch while traversing a remote Class II pass still covered in snow. It was near the end of the trip, and all of us were looking forward to some ‘real’ food after a week of eating freeze-dried camping grub. We had spent most of that day on a rugged route that challenged all of our abilities; more of a goat path at 10,000’ than a real hiking trail.

On the way down from this last high pass of the trip, we came face-to-face with a huge snowfield still icy in the late morning hours. The only safe way to get down the mountain, we quickly determined, was a technical traverse of this steep-angled obstacle.

Our small group of four caustiously inched across the snowfield making good progress as we kicked toe-holds into the snow – until we heard Joanne’s scream and watched in horror as she gathered speed sliding down the ice chute after slipping. Her backpack acted like an unintentional bobsled – but she didn’t have any safety features installed on this ‘E’ ticket ride down the mountain. A rock outcropping near the bottom abruptly stopped the freefall but we couldn’t tell the extent of her injuries from our perch high above. The rest of us didn’t have the luxury of time to panic – we still had to safely get across the snowfield ourselves before we could make our way down to render first aid.

We considered ourselves fortunate that Joanne ended up only needing stiches – after an ardous hike out of the wilderness to reach an emergency room in the Sierra foothill community of Independence. Joanne, like so many aspects of her life, never really complained about the injuries or pointed fingers at the person responsible for choosing such a risky route (me). It wouldn’t be the last time that Joanne would find herself in an emergency room as a result of her outdoor adventures.

Pete and Joanne were married in 1965. The war in Vietnam continued to worsen, health warnings were mandated on cigarette packets, a favorite kid’s toy was the Super Ball, the average cost of a home was just over $13,000, Sound of Music won the Oscar, and the Beatles released four major albums but Simon and Garfunkel had the most popular hit with “The Sound of Silence”.

Their courtship included a classic ’58 Chevy (that eventually became the family’s ‘wedding car’); with a black Volkswagen bug replacing Joanne huge ’59 Mercury after they got married – the iconic ‘beetle’ that I first saw Joanne sitting in at Acton that day of the bike race. All of us would spend way too much time in that bug traveling to races and various bike events over the ensuing years.

As easy as it is to cataglog one’s life into files of tangible facts, numbers, and accomplishments, Joanne left her family and friends with something far more special and enduring.

Joanne cared about others in a way that was so uncommonly unselfish that you almost felt a bit ashamed when you examined your own core beliefs and values. For many, like myself, we were given a pretty high bar to aim for in our journey through this life.

Fortunately, Joanne found a great outlet for her giving personality: for 14 years, Joanne made a difference to the kids at the Bonsall Elementary School, near their home in Fallbrook, California. She was a writer, poet, member of the Bonsall Women’s Club, the Writer’s Workshop, and, most importantly, strengthened her faith at the North Coast Church.

Like most of her many friends, I only knew one Joanne: someone that was always willing to sit and talk about life’s ups and downs … or just share life stories – many being cycling related. Always with a heavy dose of humor, I might add.

Joanne always seemed to be at peace with her faith in God, and the things that truly matter in the short time we have on this planet. The positive impact that Joanne had in so many lives will be, in my humble opinion, her greatest legacy.

Joanne’s favorite time of year was Christmas. Her faith – combined with a giving personality – shined when the holiday season rolled around every year. Joanne had a way of knowing just the right gift to give someone – whether it be something to comfort a friend in time of need; or, in a more tangible way, the ‘perfect’ present to make someone smile at Christmas. In my case, as it was for so many years, the perfect gift usually had something to do with a Peanuts theme. (Pete never quite understood this, but Joanne and I understood the charm of a beagle named Snoopy.)

The last Christmas present I received from Joanne was a “Snoopy” coffee cup decorated in a holiday theme that said “Happiness is a friend named Rob”. It was one of the rare times I figured she got it wrong with a gift. Happiness in this world is the love and friendship that Joanne gave so freely to all.

On Wednesday, December 2, 2009, Joanne Penseyres, 65, went to her eternal home in the loving care of her Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. To friends and family, 2009 will be remembered most for the loss of a very special friend. Joanne is survived by Pete, her loving husband of 44 years, her daughter Kristi, son in law Rich, granddaughters Kaitlyn and Karina.