Media in Texas and Alaska profiled our favorite bicyclist, Stan Oldak and preserved his memory after a hit and run accident outside Columbus, TX caused his death earlier this month.
Stan visited southeast Alaska several times a year to provide dental treatment to Inuit children there. You can imagine it wasn’t the easiest thing to hop on a plane from New York and fly clear across the continent to Alaska for a two week stay in native villages up and down the coast. But Stan did it because it was a new adventure and because he felt it was the right thing to do. As I wrote earlier, while visiting me here in Seattle after one of his early Alaska tours he told me that many of his patients had received no dental care in their lives and faced extreme medical conditions exacerbated by their lack of treatment. I’m sure this fired Stan’s dedication to this work even more intensely.
This is what the Juneau Empire’s Korry Keeker had to say about Stan (thanks to Charles Bingham for providing the links):
On a clear day from his dental office at the Kake Health Center, Dr. Stan Oldak would gaze across Chatham Strait to Baranof Island. On his left was Keku Strait and Kuiu Island. To his right, lay Frederick Sound.
It was a long way from his other pediatric practice in the heart of Manhattan.
“Once he finished for the day, he would call his friends in New York,” said Mary Vincent, a physician assistant in Kake. “And I heard him say once, ‘You know, this is the most beautiful view from a dental office of anywhere in the world.'”
Oldak began visiting Southeast Alaska in 2001 for eight weeks of the year as part of the specialty pediatric dental program that the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium runs in conjunction with Denali KidCare.
He was the only dentist that many of the children in Kake, Hoonah and Yakutat have ever known. They won’t be seeing him again.
The little joke in this passage was Stan “all over:”
“I tell people back home that this is one of the nicest things that’s happened to me in my career as a pediatric dentist,” Oldak told the Juneau Empire in May 2004.
“The only difference that I’ve found is that in New York the kids go ‘ow’ and in Hoonah the kids go ‘owee,'” he said.
Stan’s boss in Alaska captured more of Stan’s commitment to his Alaska work:
“He felt a social responsibility, and he knew what we were doing,” said Tom Bornstein, the director of SEARHC’s dental services department. “He bought into improving access to care for kids. And I think that part of it also was that he enjoyed travel and the adventure of it.
The reporter also features an interview with me about Stan. The former also wrote a sidebar story about the Alaskan dental service in which Stan participated.
A few years earlier, the Empire ran another profile of Stan which captures more of his interests and spirit.
Houston’s Fox26 ran a story about Stan on the day of the Columbus Ride of Silence. The Colorado County Citizen Gazette ran a piece on Stan just after the Ride written by the managing editor. It said in part:
As a randonneur, Stan Oldak rode his bicycle in many places that you would not normally see a bicycle.
Randonneuring is long-distance unsupported endurance cycling. This style of riding is non-competitive in nature, and self-sufficiency is paramount. When riders participate in randonneuring events, they are part of a long tradition that goes back to the beginning of the sport of cycling in France and Italy. Friendly camaraderie, not competition, is the hallmark of randonneuring.
…Stan was taking a chance by riding his bicycle in the dark along a narrow, two-lane, backwoods Texas highway at 2 a.m. on Sunday morning.
We all wish that it would be perfectly safe to ride…whenever we like, wherever we like. We all know that it is not so.
The people on the roads at 2 a.m. Sunday morning are largely law enforcement and people who have been partying and are returning home after the bar has closed.
It is not a safe environment for anyone.
Someone driving a pickup truck ran into Stan from behind and he was killed instantly. According to DPS reports, we don’t know much more than that.
…Losing people we love really hurts. Senseless accidents seem to make it somehow worse, if that is possible. And when they are the good guys, the world just seems to get a little bit dimmer.
The New York Cycle Club is considering adding Stan’s name to the title of its Youth Committee since he was very active in its work.
Thanks to all for keeping Stan’s spirit and memory alive. I hope someone out there will have a guilty conscience for the rest of their lives if they don’t have the integrity and courage to turn themselves in to the authorities as they have not done till now. In a small town in Texas there must be others who know something about this accident. I just want them to know that while they may feel they are protecting a loved one, they are continuing the suffering and agony of a family and extended circle of Stan’s loved ones.
Thanks too to Mike Bronson and other Texas cyclists who’ve plastered the local community with flyers about Stan seeking information on his accident. I hope they bear fruit. If anyone has contacted the Department of Public Safety for a report on the investigation please let me know.