I have spent this week-end, like thousands of people in Louisville and Lafayette, feeling loss at the tragic death of John Breaux, Louisville's "Bike Man", who was killed when he was hit by a car Friday afternoon. I have been somewhat obsessed with reading the hundreds and hundreds of tributes to John on various websites. The outpouring has been amazing, but not surprising.
John was a somewhat mentally challenged man who spent his days riding his bike through Louisville and Lafayette. trash bags hanging from his handlebars, picking up trash, opening doors and greeting people at businesses throughout both towns, remembering birthdays, shoveling snow, giving small gifts, recommending movies, sharing his bowling scores (very good), and generally spreading good will and good cheer. All along the way he greeted everyone he met with a smile and a wave.
I saw John nearly every day, sometimes in my neighborhood at home and sometimes in the neighborhood where I work and a smile and a wave from John always brightened my day.
The on-line tributes have ranged from #@*#, I can't belive this happened, to long stories about
how an encounter with John brought a bright spot to someone's day or joy to their life. I was struck by how many were written by young children or teenagers who had a special feeling for this very special man. The one thing that nearly everyone wrote about was how their day was made better by a smile and a wave from John.
There have already been events held in John's memory and there will be more. Suggestions and donations for a permanent memorial are already in the works. The sight of his death by the side of the road is flooded with flowers and stuffed animals and signs and other memorial gifts. I've never before left anything at one of these roadside memorials, but I think tomorrow I will buy some flowers and leave them at the spot where John died and tell him goodbye with a smile and a wave.