The circle of cyclists was gathered in the Raley’s parking lot. I was answering questions about my ironman training and describing my favorite equipment, like my Garmin heart strap and black compression sleeves supporting my calves. Various friends were offering encouraging words of support until this one guy piped up with a curiously sarcastic…
“Hmm… nice socks.”
That was the day I met George Sartor. He was a very active cyclist in the club and I got to know him over the years as someone who always seemed a little cranky. He pushed people on rides to go faster and didn’t mind a little trash talking.
After the Death Ride a couple of weeks ago, we were all gathered around a campfire sharing stories. George started in with his teasing, and I gave it right back to him with my own brand of humor. When it was time for me to go, he shook my hand and told me he really enjoyed my comedy shows in the past.
It’s funny… I hadn’t seen this warm side of George until I matched his level of trash talking. It’s like he was testing me and I finally earned his respect.
Five days later, George died in a tragic cycling accident.
I attended his memorial service on Tuesday, where several tough guys got up and told tearful stories about George being a bit rough on the outside, but a teddy bear on the inside. He could be abrasive, but he pushed people to perform at their best. He could be blunt, but you always knew where you stood with him. He could be antagonistic, but he was an extremely loyal friend once you got to know him.
My heart goes out to his family, and a college fund has been started for his kids. Please give a few dollars if you can. It will really make a difference.
I’ll take away this lesson from George… Everyone has something to offer if you give them a chance, and a rough exterior often masks a heart of gold.
We’ll miss you, George. May the wind be forever at your back.