An emotional ride; 2014 Ride of Silence special to family, friends of Albert Rich

Sunday, May 25, 2014
Kevin Duke


I was moved on Wednesday. 
I've covered Green Valley's Ride of Silence for the past three years, and have been impressed with the participation, the solemness and all the people who make it happen.
 

But this year's ride was different.  That was because of last July's loss of 19-year-old Sahuarita graduate Albert Rich, who was killed while biking in Tucson.

Rich was well-known in Sahuarita, from his time at Sahuarita High School and as a lifeguard at the Rancho Sahuarita pool.

 

 

Chuck Hill (front) organized and led this year's ride as they started on Esperanza Boulevard.


Friend and family

Albert Rich's family and friends rode in the Ninth Annual Ride of Silence after Rich was lost last year in a cycling accident in Tucson. They are friend Gail Lankow (left), mother Ellen Baker and sister Maggie Rich.

His family, friends and supporters from Sahuarita gave this year's ride a decidedly younger feel, with many coming out for the ride to remember the son, brother and friend.  I would estimate 25 to 30 of the near 80 participants in the ride to have a connection to Rich.  Among them where Rich's family, friend and their supporters, including Boy Scout Troop 365 from Sahuarita.

“It's nice to see so many young people out this year to support the Rich family,” organizer Chuck Hill said prior to the start of the ride.  When I arrived, Hill was quick to point out the members of the family, mother Ellen Baker and sister, Maggie Rich. Friend Gail Lankow was also there, riding with Rich's family to show her support.  I sought them out, to get a couple of pictures and talk with them for a moment.

 

It's all still very fresh for them.  The women teared up as we talked – as did I.  It must have been very difficult for them, sharing their extremely personal loss with this stranger with a recorder and a camera.  But share they did, expressing their gratitude to those that came out to show their support.
 
“It makes me feel wonderful, that Albert is so loved and missed,” Baker said.  For sister Maggie, the ride brought back the memory of losing her brother just those 10 short months ago.
“It's really emotional,” she said. “But it's great to see everyone. I just know that that he was loved and everyone thought he was so special, so it's great to see it.”
 

 

Bugler sendoff

Bugler Ray Soper played “Amazing Grace” and “Taps” prior to the start of the solemn ride.

Lankow's son, Josh, was Rich's best friend, so she had known him for over a decade.  “Albert was part of our family for about 10 years,” she said. “He was like my own son.”  The women were exceptionally strong in their loss and answered my questions through the grief, knowing their purpose for the day – honoring the young man they loved.  I felt their strength – and their grief, as if I had known the young man myself.
 
I struggled for something to say, the usual platitudes of “I'm sorry for your loss” and “God bless you,” sounding insufficient and hollow to my ears.  Josh said a few words over the Green Valley Fire District's truck loudspeaker before the ride.  “I can't think of a better way to remember Albert,” he said. “Thank you all so much for coming out.”
 
After his words – the silence was palpable, as the cyclists lowered their heads in prayer and remembrance, while bugler Ray Soper played “Amazing Grace” and “Taps.”  Then – they were off, riding in single file and in silence for this year's ride to remember.  I pray that the 7-mile ride helped the family and friends of Albert Rich in dealing with the loss of a young man who was so obviously loved by many.