John C. Olin, longtime owner of Higher Gear bike shop in Wilmette and Highland Park, was one of the good guys. As one friend put it: “He always had a good thing to say, a ton of positive energy and was always helping people.”
In fact, according the obituary appearing in the Chicago Tribune, he even donated a kidney in 2002 to his friend Jeff Miller, who was suffering from a failing kidney.
So, to the people who knew him, it’s no surprise that more than 200 cyclists gathered at Plaza Del Lago on Sunday morning to honor himófriend, colleague and fellow cyclist.
Olin, 51, died suddenly of cardiac arrest on Tuesday, June 9, at Highland Park Hospital. Three days prior, Olin had participated in his riding group’s usual 50- to 60-mile ride at an average pace of more than 20 mph.
Olin was a beloved member of the North Shore community, and the event organizers said the outpouring of support was indicative of how many people were touched by his spirit.
“It was really exciting to see how much a community impact he had,” says Miller, who attended the ride on Sunday. “We knew how much of an impact he had on our lives, but it was amazing to see just how many lives he touched.”
Higher Gear, which opened for business in 1992, is still open in Highland Park, but the Wilmette shop is closed temporarily.
“Those mechanics there have been around, some for over 15 years, and are really well known and liked by customers,” says Tom Tench, one of the event organizers. “I hope it stays open, but it won’t be the same without John.”
That sentiment was echoed by cyclists who showed up Sunday in their Higher Gear gear.
The ride kicked off at Plaza Del Lago and continued up Sheridan Road to Lake Bluff. Money raised through donations went to benefit the National Kidney Foundation as well as the Olin Girls Educational Fund, a fund set up for Olin’s two young daughtersóCecilia and Caroline.
Anyone wishing to donate money to the Olin Girls Education Fund can make checks payable to Smith Barney for the Benefit of Cecilia Olin and Caroline Olin, account No. 576-6916E. Checks can be mailed to Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, attention Lynn Stryk, 10 S. Wacker Drive, Ste. 2800, Chicago, IL 60606.
Those wishing to donate to the National Kidney Foundation in John C. Olin’s memory can donate online at www.kidney.org.