The Rider

July 23, 2010

For The Love Of Bill

Filed under: Rider Profiles — The Blog @ 6:01 AM

Bill and Jill met during an anatomy lab in college

Thank goodness for alphabetical order.

It was 1969 and Bill Weldon and Jill Winkler were students at Bowling Green State University, both physical education majors – and wound up in the same anatomy class. Alphabetical order was how the professor determined lab partners … and fortunately there wasn’t a student in the lab whose last name was West or Wexner.

“I didn’t have the book for class yet and he was very kind and shared his book,” Jill said of Bill, adding soon after they began dating and quickly knew they were right for one another.

Here's Bill and Jill with their grandson

“You could sort of feel the click,” Jill said of falling in love. “He had the most wonderfully expressive eyes and these great smile crinkles that drew you in.”

The big moment came after a game of H-O-R-S-E … that Jill won.

“I said you have to marry me if I beat you,” she said. “I don’t know if he lost on purpose.”

Bill and Jill (it even rhymes) were life partners – and also partners on their beloved tandem bike – for just over 40 years. Bill, an avid cyclist who for many years owned and operated Bill’s Bike Shop in Circleville, passed away in March 2009, not long after he was diagnosed with tumors in his brain.

And spent a lot of time riding their tandem

In the months after Bill’s diagnosis, several friends ran the bike shop while he went through five difficult rounds of chemotherapy. During this tough time period, Bill’s mother, who was in her 90s, passed away.

“He got wonderful care at The James,” Jill said. “But he got an infection and went into a coma and that was it.”

Bill passed on March 26, 2009.

“He was fun loving and always a very willing volunteer,” Jill said of Bill, who was a football referee for many years, was active in his church and with American Field Service.

Many family memebrs have helped support Bill - and Pelotonia

At the end of 2009, Jill decided it was finally time to close the bike shop, which Bill opened in 1989 and had become a local landmark and gathering place for cyclists.

“I think it’s something Bill would have wanted us to do,” she said of closing the shop. “We probably kept it open longer than he would have agreed to.”

Jill and her son, also named Bill, along with her niece Anne McHardy and friends Diane and Hap Eaton will ride Pelotonia as members of Team Weldon – For the Love of Bill. This is the second year of riding Pelotonia for Jill.

Cycling was always a big part of Bill and Jill’s lives together.

“We were a team,” is how she described the thousands of miles the two rode together on their tandem. Bill always rode in the forward position and, “so, for many years, my captain and I spent many miles and hours together, working together, communicating (a pinch is nonverbal communication) and enjoying each other’s company.  One favorite saying that always comes to mind was Bill saying ‘hill, Jill’ to which the standard reply from me was ‘Sheeift, Bill.’  Sometimes the ‘F’ was silent, but we still kept pedaling.”

Jill continues to ride, but the adjustment from being part of a tandem team to being a solo rider has been difficult.

“Riding isn’t the same without my captain,” she said. “But it’s part of putting one foot in front of the other  – part of the healing from a couple to a single … from a tandem to a solo.”

Jill, who recently retired after a long career as a health and physical education teacher, said the past several months have been understandably difficult. She still gets emotional and the tears flow when she thinks about or talks about Bill. But with the help of family and friends – and even Bill – she said she is doing her best to move forward.

This is the sign Jill saw on the road during Pelotonia - complete with the mysterious red heart above the I

The help from Bill comes in mysterious and amazing ways, Jill said. For example, last year, during the first Pelotonia ride, some friends painted a “Jill W” sign of encouragement on the road.

“I saw it and told them it was so neat they put a red heart above the I in my name,” Jill said. “They kind of looked at me curiously and said they didn’t put the heart there. It was a sign for me that Bill was with me … I’m totally convinced that’s how it got there.”

10 things about Jill…

Favorite ride

Along Lake Michigan

Dream ride

Cross country, USA

Current Pelotonia bike

Giant Defy 2 Advanced

Dream bike

What I’m riding

Favorite movie

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and Field of Dreams

Favorite band/singer

The Eagles

Favorite TV show

MASH

Favorite book

Avenger, by Frederick Forsyth

Favorite athlete

Lance

Favorite post-ride meal

Anything … but it has to include chocolate milk

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