Another inspirational day, I had the pleasure to finally meet Joe Datsko of biking fame. From an earlier post in February this year I referenced an article from Ann Arbor dot com who was featuring Mr. Datsko who was just turning 90 years old and had logged in 120,000 miles with the Ann Arbor Bicycling Society Club. This does not even count his miles logged in riding the perimiter of the USA and rides in other countries. From the photo in the article about him you see a map behind him that outlines his route all around the country.
I saw a small copy that he unfolded from within his wallet that was a small replica of that map. What a great inspiration it was to meet this man. I had the pleasure of lunching with him and a mutual friend who is the director of a retirement community in the Ann Arbor area where Joe lives at Glacier Hills. My friend and I were chatting about bike riding and she told me of this amazing gentleman who lived where she worked and who rode a bike nearly daily on very long rides, later when his story was published I noted it on my facebook page and, what a coincidence ,my friend told me it was the very same person!
We've planned the luncheon for a couple of months now and Joe is a very busy and active senior and it's taken this long to pin him down!
About the luncheon, what an amazing and gentle man. Joe is a retired mechanical engineer from the University of Michigan and a served as a Navy SeaBee during World War Two. He talked about a different era and a culture that existed of extreme patriotism after the Pearl Harbor attack and what a honor it was to serve his country. He spoke of the stigma and sting of disspointment a young man would suffer if he were ranked a 4F and how young men could not sign up quickly enough in their rush to duty after that historic event. Most young men of that era were anxious to see combat duty. I noted to him how much this differed from the era I grew up in where many young people sought to avoid service in Vietnam. We talked wistfully of a different time in our history.
That subject arose from another article about Joe in the Ann Arbor dot com that outlined his labor of love as he chose to retype all the letters he and his late wife exchanged while he was stationed over seas. Joe is in the process (up to letter number 500 of 728) of committing the letters to posterity for his children and grandchildren by retyping all of them. I asked Joe about these letters and as he spoke the love this man had for his wife of nearly 64 years shined through. It was clearly evident that Doris was the love of his life and that he was devoted to her. He spoke about their written communications throughout his time overseas, how he and Doris shared a love of travel and bike riding together. Together they traveled to over 30 countries. He spoke of bike rides in foreign lands as exotic as New Zeeland. Well that would be exotic to us here in the States.
Story after story revealed a zest for life and adventure and his passion for bike riding. When asked what kept him so motivated he spoke of comraderie he enjoyed with his bicycling club and how they inspired each other. When he undertook the first cross country ride he was 70. That was followed by his perimiter of the USA rides. His story inspired another club member, a woman who took up bike riding very late in life and committed to riding 70 miles on her 70th birthday. After completing that feat she committed to ride across the USA having been inspired by Joe and is somewhere near New Mexico now in her ride from the Pacific to the Atlantic. I was awe struck by the vigor of these seniors and somewhat shamed over my own meager biking accomplishments, one thing for sure - these stories will serve as a HUGE inspiration to me and I am certain to others.
I can only begin to sort out all the stories of love, inspiration, dedication and honor that Joe shared with me today. I hope to have more time to spend listening to his stories in the future and he is certainly a man I will never forget.
If you want to read more about Joe and the details of the articles at Ann Arbor dot com check out these links.