If you ever rode the Ohio to Erie Trail (OTET) through London, it is very possible that you either saw or met Gene Pass. Gene knew no strangers. Although he was a quiet person, he liked talking to riders and walkers and loved listening to their stories. He would follow their blogs and Facebook pages for months, with true interest.
Gene was one of the founding board members of the Friends of Madison County Parks and Trails (FMCPT), the support group for the Madison County trail section of the OTET. He was one of our most prolific members. If you ever found a flier promoting one of our rides on your windshield when you parked at our trailheads, it was probably put there by him. It was Gene’s idea: he printed them at home (very computer adept for his age) and then distributed them. He cleared brush on the trail, worked many hours soliciting and tracking memberships, worked on all our rides and events, and so much more. Gene rarely made a suggestion without also volunteering his sweat equity to make it happen. He was a prolific photographer and always had photos to show the local park board what was happening or who was riding on the trail, thus ensuring that park board members knew or were reminded of the importance of the trail for our community’s health and wellbeing.
Gene also loved to ride; one year riding 7000 miles. Gene never turned down a chance to ride with someone. One January day I noticed the weather was going to be sunny, 35 degrees, and a steady SW wind. I called Gene and asked, “Do you want to ride a 20 mph tail wind home from Xenia tomorrow?” He, of course, said sure. I told him I’d call him back when I work out the logistics to transport us to Xenia. Instantly he said. “No problem. My wife will drop us off.” So Gene (nearly 80 years old at the time), Wayne Roberts (the other half of our eastern trail namesake Roberts Pass), and I sailed home from Xenia dodging snow drifts and ice patches. He also liked McDonalds and combined two of his loves by riding the McDonald’s Century. He visited McDonald’s six times riding through London, Xenia, and Jamestown on that 100 mile long ride.
FMCPT wasn’t the only benefactor of Gene’s energy. He donated countless volunteer hours to the Boy Scouts, his church, the historical society, and other entities. He winter camped with the Boy Scouts and hiked the Grand Canyon. Every Friday morning he led a group of men who maintained their church. He volunteered at the historical society making rope and teaching both adults and youth about different displays.
Gene was good at recruiting. He always brought someone along to help at work events. Even as quiet as he was, it was hard to say no to him because he set such a good example.
Gene’s final wish was to have the 1.8 mile gap of the OTET trail in London to be completed along the existing rail bed. The FMCPT board will do everything in their power to honor this wish.
Albert Einstein wrote that “Life is like riding a bicycle – in order to keep your balance, you must keep moving.” Gene Pass rode the trail through the summer of 2022, but succumbed to leukemia at age 89.
Remembrance Tribute by Alan Knowles of the Friends of Madison County Parks and Trails