HIBBING — Steve and Pat Gillitzer loved hitting the trails on two wheels.
“Over the last few years, they were among our most active riders,” said cyclist Henry Djerlev. “Pat would ride during the day, but join us on some of the evening rides. And they biked a lot on their own too, traveling to places where they could hit the trails.”
The couple was members of Cycle Mesabi, an active bicycle club that hosts evening rides during the week from Hibbing. The club has been in existence for 29 years now, and they were part of it for a large portion of those years, according to Djerlev.
The Gillitzers and two of their grandsons passed away as a result of injuries from a house fire on Dec. 26 at their home at 212 42nd St. E. in a Hibbing.
“When we got the call, it was a shock,” said Djerlev, who as wintering out of state. “It’s one of those times when you really don’t know what to feel or how to react. They were really nice people, and very active in the community.”
Cycle Mesabi will be holding a Memorial Bike Ride for Steve and Pat this Saturday, June 30.
It will start around 9 a.m. at the pavilion at Bennett Park.
The plan is to ride about 20 miles — 10 out and 10 back — on the Mesabi Trail toward Kelly Lake and then return to Hibbing.
Children and those less inclined can ride in North Hibbing.
The public is invited to participate.
Talk of a memorial ride surfaced while friends and family mourned and began processing what occurred. Plans continued and the date was chosen early on.
“In addition, we’ve also just put out a bench on the bike trail between Hibbing and Kerr Locations,” said Djerlev. “It’s on the Mesabi Trail, about half way over the hill, just as you go down the backside of the trail.”
A plaque made by family with the Gillitzers’ names and a beautiful saying will soon be added to the bench.
The route Saturday will be a similar path the club has taken in the past, noted Djerlev.
“It was one of our annual rides,” he said. “We used to call it the Bear Ride because we’d often see bears on the route.”
He’s talking about pedaling on an old mining byway known as Stevenson Road, which takes travelers to the Mahoning Mine.
Following the ride, participants will gather in Bennett Park for socializing.
“It will be a time for people to support each other,” said Djerlev. “There will be family members there and a lot of people that were in biking clubs that knew Steve and Pat.”
A second bench honoring the couple is to be installed in Bennett Park. Djerlev said the plan is to place it under a large tree between the North Pavillion and Third Avenue East toward Guardian Angels Health and Rehabilitation Center.
“This bench will be more accessible to younger kids and adults, to those using park,” he said. “Maybe it will be a place where people can reflect and think about Steve and Pat.”
There are also plans to plant a couple of apples trees near the bench. Both the bench and trees are memorials that are offered by the city through its parks programs, noted Djerlev.
“Steve and Pat had so many friends, and we have no other way or reaching them other than this (ride). We are just one circle of his friends,” he said. “ … I would image we’d do this in the future too, but maybe a bit more casually than this one.”
Hibbing Fire Marshal Bryan Fagerstrom said Thursday that the cause of the fire is still under investigation.
“The house will be coming down soon,” he added. “We still have a lab examining all the artifacts that were removed during (scene) processing.”