Larry LaRue: 90-year-old Tacoma woman gets a new set of wheels — 3 of 'em

Staff writerJanuary 19, 2014 


Bev Williams, 90, of Tacoma shows off her new tricycle last week.

LUI KIT WONG — Staff photographer Buy Photo

A  year ago, Bev Williams made a decision with all of Pierce County in mind. She stopped driving.

“I decided the streets were safer without me and my car on them,” she said.

A 90-year-old widow, Williams has always been honest with herself. Born in the Midwest, she came to grad school at the University of Washington and loved the West.

“My husband and I came out here in ’46, spent our honeymoon on the trip,” she said. “We didn’t know exactly where we were going to live. We stopped in Denver, Las Vegas, Portland. By the time we got here, the next stop was Alaska.”

They stayed here.

Did she ever miss the Midwest? “I spent 23 years waiting to get out of Iowa,” she deadpanned.

Not driving hasn’t slowed her pace or her will.

“I walk, I bike, I swim,” she said. “I wish I could dance.”

A lifelong cyclist, she started having balance issues seven years ago and fell three times. Neuropathy in both legs was causing problems, not during the rides, but on the dismount.

“I have good bones, so I never broke anything,” Williams said. “I just bruised a lot.”

The mother of two, grandmother of one, found an answer at a local bike shop: an adult tricycle.

There were a couple of early mishaps — “I’m adventurous,” she allowed — but before long she had her confidence and was riding as far as six miles in an outing.

“I’ll go out in the rain and I’ll go out in the wind,” she said. “I won’t go out in both.”

Seven years of riding that tricycle ended last month when it was stolen outside Allenmore Hospital and Medical Center, not far from Williams’ home in central Tacoma.

“Bev was devastated,” said Caryn Swick, whose mother is Williams’ next-door neighbor. “She was really frantic. That tricycle was how she got around, to the grocery store, the library, the doctor’s.”

Swick has worked at Larson Logging & Tree Service in Tacoma for more than 20 years. One thing she’s learned in that time is that her employer, owner Lorn Larson, is a generous man.

“My boss has a benevolent heart,” Swick said. “A few days after I heard about Bev, I was sitting at my desk when he walked in and I asked, ‘How benevolent are you feeling today?’ He said, ‘You have a story for me?’ ”

She did, and told it. Larson was incensed.

“Who would steal an old lady’s tricycle?” he asked.

And then he did what Swick thought he might, only sooner.

“He literally left the office after he heard Bev’s story, but told me ‘Call Bike Tech,’ ” Swick said. “He had a new tricycle delivered that same day.”

It was too big, too heavy, for Williams to handle. Larson turned around, took it back and returned with a newer, lighter three-speed that cost him $545.

“I was tickled to do it,” Larson said.

“It was blue,” Williams said. “It was perfect.”

She’s back on the streets and sidewalks, adventurous as ever.

“I ride in the street on side streets, on the sidewalk on busier streets,” Williams said. “I cut through parking lots when I can. I rode over to the Proctor Library this week. I do all my errands on it.”

At night, it’s stored in the secured parking garage at Tahoma Terrace, where she’s lived for 11 years. Four or five days a week, she fits it with a new head-and-taillight rig and takes a ride. As long as she avoids steep hills, she’s fine.

“When I first got my tricycle, I was going uphill and hadn’t kept a foot on the brake,” she recalled. “I wound up going backwards and fell over. Just a few more bruises.”

Larry LaRue: 253-597-8638; larry.larue@

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