Memorial for Anchorage cyclist killed in hit-and-run draws crowd of mourners

Michelle Theriault Boots
More than 100 people from both the bicycling community and food service industry attended a gathering on Sunday, July 20, 2014 near the location where bicyclist Jeff Dusenbury was struck and killed on Saturday in an apparent hit-and-run. Bill Roth / Alaska Dispatch News

Jeff Dusenbury spent much of his time biking far-flung trails of Anchorage, treating the wild edges of the city as if they were his backyard.

It was nothing for the 51-year-old bicyclist to pedal from his driveway to Girdwood or Eklutna Lake and back in a day while training for an endurance race, his friends said.

But when he was killed on Saturday morning in an apparent hit-and-run, he was close to home.

Dusenbury, a married father of one, was riding a bicycle on a quiet, residential street just a few blocks from his house in South Anchorage when he was hit by a pickup around 10:15 a.m., according to Anchorage police.

Police said a 17-year-old driver backed into him while trying to turn around and then left the scene of the accident. The driver's name is not being released because she is a juvenile.

Charges against the girl are pending.

On Sunday, more than 100 people showed up to an impromptu memorial for Dusenbury at a grassy park on the corner of Spruce Street and 84th Avenue, where he died.

His tearful wife and daughter stood in front of a heaping pile of bouquets while a friend, Peter Van Tuyn, spoke.

Dusenbury always made sure the neighborhood kids had immaculately tuned-up bikes, Van Tuyn said.

As a salesman for Food Services of America, Dusenbury wanted to make sure everyone was fed, too. He’d often amuse friends by pulling over in the middle of a bike ride to take a phone call from a client, talking rib deliveries on mile 40 of an 80-mile day.

In the crowd were bicyclists who knew Dusenbury as an unflagging supporter of riding events and for his gleeful attitude toward the rigors of endurance biking.

He was known in his circle for being an especially safety-conscious rider, even as he would push for more miles in terrible weather, his friends said.

“His philosophy on bicycling was, why suffer a little when you can suffer a lot?” said Van Tuyn.

This weekend, the weekend he was killed, Dusenbury was doing a lot of the things he loved, his friend Mike Vania said.

On Saturday morning, he was on his way to meet two friends at the Abbott Road ball fields for a three- to four-hour training bike ride, possibly to Eagle River and back.

It was his last chance to “get a lot of miles on his legs” before the upcoming Soggy Bottom 100 endurance race in Hope, said Clayton Walker, a cycling friend and attorney.

Later in the day he was planning to go car shopping with his daughter, friends said.

And just before he left his house on Saturday, he texted Vania about supplying ribs for a planned evening barbecue.

Dusenbury’s evenings and weekends were filled with epic journeys by bike, ski and foot around Southcentral Alaska, friends said, and that made him a happy man.

That he could be killed on a quiet, dead-end street on a Saturday morning is hard for them to understand.

“It’s raw right now,” Vania said. “It’s incomprehensible.”

Contact Michelle Theriault Boots at mtheriault@adn.com.