Celebrate Jack H. with a milestone Birthday Ride!
If you ride with the LWA (soon to be the Lehigh Valley Cycling Club) chances are you’ve shared the road with Jack Helffrich. An indefatigable athlete and dedicated cyclist, Jack has been riding with the LWA since the mid 1970s. Now himself in his mid 70s, his approach to riding is a bit different, but his passion and commitment remain the same.
He began riding a motorcycle when he was 19, but switched to cycling when his best friends opened a bike shop. “I bought a white Fuji S10S road bike from them,” he remembers, and he’s been riding ever since. He has ridden tandem with his wife Linda, has done some mountain biking, and he takes a fat-tire bike to the Florida beaches, but road biking is his preference. In addition to many shorter rides, he has completed the Sierra to the Sea Bicycle Tour and rode across the USA with Wandering Wheels.
His riding may have slowed a bit over the years, but his competitive spirit and the joy he derives from the activity have remained steadfast. “Once you’ve committed to a healthy lifestyle it feels good to keep doing it,” he says. He loves riding solo - “being alone with my thoughts” - but the social aspect is a very strong motivator.
His cyclist friends agree. “I think Jack rides to be with friends and to eat ice cream, says Dave Sheffield,” the group’s current treasurer, who added that he’s always on the lookout for an ice cream shop. Dave also talks about his caring spirit. “When two members had a cycling accident and couldn’t ride, Jack organized a ‘get well’ ride by, and 20 of us stopped at their house to show our support and friendship.” The club’s president Carl Zvanut credits Jack with being the reason he became involved with the group and jokes that “he loves birthdays - mainly his own. He likes to ride his age in miles, which he still does at his ripe old age!” Board member Henry Friess calls Jack an anchor of the group. “His enthusiasm for riding is contagious, and his warm and friendly personality immediately draws you in.”
It’s not all about him, though. Jack has dedicated much time and many miles to worthy causes. Since 1997 he has participated in the Pennsylvania Perimeter Ride Against Cancer. In his early retirement he volunteered with Community Bike Works, a mentoring program that uses bicycles and books to teach life lessons to inner city kids. He has also delivered Meals on Wheels, though in this case the wheels were attached to a car. Carl notes that Jack thought up the Munchkin Mile as something kids could do during the Donut Derby. He also sets up holiday collection for the club to donate to the Sixth Street Shelter and Turning Point.
Jack is a lifelong resident of the LV and can trace his paternal lineage back to Pastor Johann Heinrich Helffrich, a missionary who came to the area from Germany in the 1770s. He has been married to Linda for 52 years and they have three children, seven grandchildren, and five great grandsons, whose great-great grandmother - Jack’s mother, whose maiden name is also Helfrich but with one f - is 100. Jack earned an MBA and worked at Mack Trucks for many years, in the engineering department, assembly plant, and office. After retiring in 2002 he taught part-time at Lincoln Tech. His advice for staying active after retirement is to write lists of the things you want to do. Besides riding, Jack is always busy with projects around the house. He is also “obsessed with the New York Times Spelling Bee” and enjoys reading and playing the piano.
Former club president Rich Ferrera notes Jack’s understated compassion. “When I first started riding with the group,” he says,” I struggled to keep up with Jack and the others. During one particular ride, Jack passed me and slowed down, and without saying a word, he let me draft so that I could recover a bit.”
Rich continues, “Jack deserves all of the birthday celebrations he receives each year.”
All club members are invited to join Jack for his 75-mile 75th birthday ride on Saturday, September 30. Please check the website for info on starting time and location. There will also be 25- and 50-mile options. And yes, there will be ice cream.
(Written by Monica Friess)