Tacoma widower, 80, bikes to fight back against illness that killed his wife
Bob Stidwell’s idea was born out of tragedy.
It was conceived during nightly dreams while the 80-year-old Tacoma man lay in a sleeping bag beside the hospital bed of his wife, Patricia.
Stidwell initially wanted to tell people about multiple myeloma, the blood cancer that was killing his wife of nearly 46 years. Then he decided to raise money in hopes of helping researchers find a cure. Finally, he discovered that melding his efforts with his passion for bicycling would personalize his mission.
Thus began the dream of combining his two lifetime loves.
By the end of July, Stidwell plans to ride his bicycle hundreds of miles to Albertsons stores in Pierce and Thurston counties, where he will educate passers-by on multiple myeloma, ask for donations and talk about his lovely wife.
“I call it my dream,” Stidwell said. “I want to make my dream a reality. It’s been a long-haul process.”
The retired schoolteacher, who now works part-time at an Albertsons store as a courtesy clerk, has pedaled to seven stores. The farthest was Tumwater, but he’s trekked to Olympia, Lacey and University Place, too. Still ahead are Puyallup, Milton and Gig Harbor.
By the end of this mission, Stidwell calculates he will have cycled more than 300 miles. He initially hoped to raise $1 million, but reality settled in and he’s chosen a more realistic goal of $10,000. So far he’s raised about $1,500.
All proceeds will benefit the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation.
“There’s nothing he can do to bring his wife back, but he can do something for somebody who is still alive,” said Alicia O’Neill, manager of the foundation’s endurance events program. “It’s really his whole life right now putting this together. It’s very sweet.”
Stidwell has spent months planning and organizing. He always knew he wanted to do something meaningful to honor his wife, who died in December, and to make a difference.
When the cancer began to take its toll on Patricia, Stidwell put down the kickstand on his bike for four years so he could spend all his time taking care of her.
“During 2008 to 2009, this just kept reoccurring, almost like a calling,” he said. “The dream developed nightly.
“By the time she passed, I finally put down on paper what I was going through.”
Stidwell outlined his dream and goals in six pages. It’s now laminated and hangs above an information station he sets up every Saturday at a different Albertsons store.
He has had his good days, and his bad.
There was the day he got a flat tire. Or the morning he took a spill along some railroad tracks. He’s been heckled, harassed and made fun of.
But the good days give him hope.
Like when a handful of former students he’d taught in fifth grade made the drive from Seattle to Tacoma to write him a check and say some encouraging words.
“That was a real, real big high,” Stidwell said.
“It’s one thing to dream of something. It’s something entirely different to carry it out.”
Here are the remaining Albertsons stores Bob Stidwell plans to visit in hopes of raising awareness and funds for multiple myeloma, which killed his wife in December.
June 30: 104 Military Road, Tacoma.
July 7: 11012 Canyon Road, Puyallup.
July 14: 2800 Milton Way, Milton.
July 28: 11330 51st Ave. N.W., Gig Harbor.
To donate to Stidwell’s fund online, visit http://bit.ly/M248ug