SOUTH VENICE — One of four bicyclists struck by a motorist near the Plantation community died due to his injuries a week after the wreck.
William J. “Jack” Harrison, 67, of Englewood, routinely logged thousands of miles every year on his bike, starting with about 8,000 in 2008 and 17,000 last year — with an eye toward 18,000 this year.
After being critically injured about 7:30 a.m. Oct. 30, he was pronounced dead Monday.
Harrison, whose name and age were initially incorrect in information from Florida Highway Patrol, was one of four bicyclists struck along Center Road by Marion Kahler, 91, of North Port.
The other injured riders were Sarah Calabrese, 55, of Venice; Joel Calabrese, 67, of Venice; and John Ustruck, 60, of North Venice.
All four were initially listed in critical condition. Sarasota Memorial Hospital said Wednesday two of the patients were discharged while one remains hospitalized in stable condition. Hospital officials are unable to provide identities on specific patient information due to federal laws.
The four bicyclists were, according to an FHP report, riding east in a designated bike lane as they approached Rockley Boulevard. The bicyclists “traveled into the left eastbound lane of Center Road and into the path of (the vehicle),” the report said.
The report said Kahler kept driving her 2008 Chevrolet Cobalt past Rockley Boulevard, then turned around and pulled over.
The crash happened near Plantation Golf & Country Club in South Venice.
“The investigation is ongoing,” the FHP report states.
Longtime friends of Harrison praised his life and said he was extremely experienced when it came to riding bikes, noting he’d done so not only locally but on trips to Europe and New Zealand.
“His bike had more mirrors than my car does and probably cost more than my car does,” Mary Gillespie said.
Gillespie, a Nokomis resident, said she’d known Harrison and his wife for about seven years. They retired as teachers and had lived in several area communities, including Nokomis and Englewood.
“He followed every rule of being on the road,” she said.
Harrison was a Cape Cod, Massachusetts, native and is survived by his wife, son, daughter and new grandchild, she said.
She called him “a very jolly guy” who was a “gentle soul” and always smiling.
Venice resident Ed Whittemore has known Harrison since their teenage and young adult years on Cape Cod where they played soccer together.
Whittemore called him a “very experienced” rider and good friend through the decades.
“He was a very well-read, articulate guy. He wrote poetry. He was a renaissance guy,” Whittemore said.
Harrison had an athletic streak throughout his life, being a captain for the Tufts University soccer team during his college years and in later life becoming heavily involved in bike riding.
Whittemore said Harrison had a goal of riding 8,000 miles in 2008 and it just went up from there. This year, he wanted to ride 18,000 miles.
“When he set a goal, he accomplished it,” Whittemore said.
Venice resident Mike Tracy said while he’d enjoyed cycling prior to meeting Harrison, Jack became his “mentor” to the sport.
“I cycled with him the day before the accident,” Tracy said.
“Jack was a humble guy. A very strong individual in his own way...an individual who earned a great deal of respect from those around him,” Tracy said. “He was very serious about his cycling. He cycled between 15 and 20,000 miles per year.”
Tracy said Harrison logged every ride, every partner and every place he went.
“This was not a casual cyclist. He took the sport seriously,” he said. “I’ve ridden thousands and thousands of miles with him. He was very cautious, very capable guy on a bike.”
He said the crash has led to area bicyclists who knew Harrison to pause and take a longer look at their safety.
“My view of cycling is there is a risk ... there are accidents in cycling, usually you hit a pothole and maybe get roadrash, that kind of thing happens. This was an extraordinary accident,” he said.
He is back on the road, Tracy said.
“I am continuing to ride, I rode this morning. Our group — there’s a very somber atmosphere about it because we are torn up about this. A few of us are talking a lot about ways to be safer. We are taking precautions and changing some rules that we apply to ourselves to be safer,” Tracy said.
He said Harrison was a good rider and a great person.
“This guy’s a class act. Not by no means was he a reckless bicyclist,” Tracy said.
He said Harrison had the distinction of the rare accomplishment of riding more than 100,000 miles on a single bicycle — a Williers road bike. “Very few people can boast such a statistic,” he said in a text message.
Whittemore said his thoughts on Harrison are of his happiness.
“The vision I’m having of Jack sitting here is a big smile on his face. Jack was a well-read, articulate, happy guy. He was happily married ... he was at a good place in life,” Whittemore said. “He will really, really be missed … It’s just a tragedy … he was a solid Cape Cod boy … he’s going to be missed.”