I knew this day was coming.
But the news still hit hard. And hurt like hell.
According to Streetsblog LA, Howard Krepack, one of LA’s first lawyers specializing in bicycle cases, passed away on Saturday, and was buried Monday afternoon.
I had the pleasure of knowing Howard, and was happy to call him a friend. He had a warmth and good humor that welcomed everyone, and made anyone he met feel like an old friend.
With the possible exception of opposing counsel.
Bicycling wasn’t just the focus of his practice, it was his passion. And he was committed to doing what he could help it thrive in the City of Angels, from supporting the LACBC and websites like Streetsblog and BikinginLA, to doing whatever he could to help injured cyclists.
A long time member of Velo Club La Grange, he had the skill to drop riders half his age. Unless he’d rather just ride alongside, discussing everything from the latest frames and components to how the streets could be made safer for cyclists.
Or just how great it felt to be out for a ride on a typically beautiful LA day.
Howard made sure I rode in to the first few CicLAvias with him and his riding buddies. And made a point of including me as part of the team he sponsored for River Ride every year, whether I was able to ride with them, or busy volunteering at the LACBC booth.
I probably learned as much about bike law from Howard the few times we rode together as I have from any other source.
It was devastating news when I learned, shortly after one of those River Rides, that he was suffering from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, better known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. A disease that slowly robs those it afflicts of the ability to control their own bodies. The mind remains sharp, but trapped in a body that no longer functions; first, unable to ride a bike, then walk or speak, and finally, unable to breath.
He already knew he was suffering from an incurable, and inevitably fatal, illness as we had a long discussion that day. Yet there was no hint of it in his bright smile and broad laughter.
And he continued to practice law, first on his own, then through his associates at the firm, managing cases from his home once he could no longer make it to the courthouse, for as long as he was able.
I kept touch with him for awhile after that, first through email, then through his assistant Lisa as the disease took its toll.
Then lost touch as I struggled with my own illness, and an upgrade from Apple robbed me of the contents of my address book.
Yet even so, he served as an inspiration to me on my darkest days.
From some reason, though, he’d been on my mind lately. I’d been meaning to reach out to his law firm to see if Lisa was still there, and had any news about him. And ask her to pass along my friendship and best wishes.
Sadly, I waited too long.
I’ll miss Howard.
And whether or not you knew him, so will you, as LA bicyclists has lost a true champion, in every sense of the word.
The good always die too soon.
Update: Howard and his family have created a fund in his honor at The Robert Packard Center for ALS Research at Johns Hopkins under the leadership of Dr. Jeffrey Rothstein. To donate and read more about this fund, please visit: http://bit.ly/KrepackForACure.
I’ll try to get Tuesday’s Morning Links online a little later today. To be honest, I just can’t write anymore right now.