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Celebrating the life of Eve DeCoursey


With a dignity and grace all her own, Eve DeCoursey passed away peacefully on Wednesday, November 24, 2010 with family and friends by her side.  Eve first began working with WABA in 2006 when she responded to a job announcement for the Education program.  Dorcas Adkins read her application and called her immediately, persuading her to consider instead a different position that combined Development Manager with her beloved Pace Car program, new to WABA for the coming year’s Safe Routes program in DC. She took this on and more, becoming WABA’s resident graphic artist and feng shui specialist as well. Our office on Conn. Ave. was already outgrown and she helped us put up with its cramped spaces by artfully rearranging them many times. Under her nurturing care, WABA’s newsletter Ride On was given the beautiful layout we see now. She helped dozens of bike advocates find places to stay in DC through coordinating the home stays for the National Bike Summit, was a League Certified Cycling Instructor, and taught dozens safe cycling through helping teach WABA’s Confident City Cycling classes. Before her time at WABA, she had a lengthy and extremely impressive athletic and professional resume.

Bicycling for her was not an obsession but an extension of her physical being.  She was passionate about restoring sanity to our streets.  Eve was a top triathlete in Hawaii and the 1985 State Champion before turning her attention to the advocacy side of cycling where she became Hawaii Bicycling League’s (HBL) first Executive Director. Over the course of 15 years she built the organization from one cardboard box to an organization with 10 employees. She has box full of trophies from past races, and an award from the Mayor of Honolulu for establishing “Red Sneaker Week” getting kids to walk to school. The Hawaii Bike-ed program is the most comprehensive in the country – every elementary school kid participates with real on-road trainers.  She was a professional typesetter and composed and typeset all of the newsletters for the Hawaii Bicycling League for 15 years as well as serving as its Executive Director.  She could type close to 200 words/minute! She established the Oahu Island circumference ride and this year’s Honolulu Century Ride was dedicated to Eve by her friends at HBL. She organized the Honolulu Wheelchair Marathon – an adjunct to the huge annual marathon; recruiting and training the several dozen bicycle marshals who rode along with the wheelchair racers.  She had a warm spot in her heart for adults who wanted to learn to ride and had infinite patience as a teacher. She worked as a transportation planner for the City of Honolulu.   She was a much loved icon in Honolulu – hard to walk the streets without her yelling, Hi! to someone.

She started her tri-athletic career in the early 80’s while living in Pikesville MD and working for University of Maryland Baltimore County as a typesetter.  Eve trained tri-athletes with Brian Clark, nationally recognized author and expert on running technique – Island Tri-Training.  She trekked the 3-day hike down Maui’s Haleakala Crater 35 times in her life and lived in the Hawaiian rainforest for 6 months living only on locally available wild fruits and vegetables.  She was trained as a classical concert pianist and took in foreign students and coached their English.

We’ve been missing Eve’s presence in the office for many months already, since the day last Spring when she regretfully resigned her position. Much that she has done for WABA will stay with us, in the form of the layout she bestowed on our new office in Adams Morgan last winter. Her legendary passion for bicycling has become a part of WABA- she has never turned down a call from a prospective cyclist in need of lessons or from a local homeowner requesting a Pace Car sticker. Thanks to Eve, WABA’s gratitude is shown to its volunteers as never before. All of these things have been incorporated into the WABA culture because of her. Despite her proper sounding speech mannerisms with a tinge of Canada mixed in, she was an uncomplicated and trusting soul who couldn’t comprehend mean-spiritedness or dishonesty.  Aloha, Eve.

14 comments
Teresa Hanifin Wong
Teresa Hanifin Wong

Aloha Loved Ones, I'm so sad to read about Eve's passing in today's Honolulu Star Advertiser Obituary. It is a lovely photo, and I'm thankful that a sunrise beach service is planned for her in Honolulu. She was a good friend from long ago-- the early 1980's-- when she was a typesetter and I was a graphic artist. It was a privilege and a pleasure to know her. Mahalo, Teresa Hanifin Wong, Honolulu

Jennifer Lehman
Jennifer Lehman

It was always so nice to talk to her and see her smile. I remember meeting her at my first WABA event a few years back and making me feel welcome. Eve, you are in our hearts forever. jleh

Casey Anderson
Casey Anderson

Eve was a big part of what makes WABA such a great organization. She was a beautiful person who led an amazing life and touched an enormous number of lives, including mine. Thank you, Eve.

Khal Spencer
Khal Spencer

Sarah A woman on a bicycle is not an anomaly in part because of the trail Eve DeCoursey and others like her blazed. You would have loved to see her out there ten, twenty or more years ago on her bike. Amazing is all I can say. I watched Eve finish a major USCF road race some decades back. I think she won that race. The race went from Central Oahu down to the North Shore and back again several times. The ferocity of her competitiveness was obvious and spoke more than I can about Eve's fire and dedication. Translated into advocacy, all I could say is "stay outa that sistah's way". We will all miss her.

sarah
sarah

This morning I froze my face off riding my bike to work, but smiled, thinking to myself "I'm so lucky to live my life this way." In that way, I think people could live twice as long and only half as much as Eve did. I'm so sad that she didn't have more time on earth since she clearly enjoyed it so much, but she did the most that she could with the body that she had for a long time, and that's more than a lot of people ever have. These days, a woman on a bicycle is not an anomoly. But this was not always the case! I must tip my helmet to a woman who helped to pave a welcoming road for me. Eve was always so very very kind to me. I'll remember her well.

Scott Dempsey
Scott Dempsey

Eve always made me feel very welcomed as a WABA volunteer. She radiated integrity and grace, but I had no idea that she was a woman of so many talents. Wow! To be that gifted and at the same time so authentic and caring...we have lost someone very special. Thank you, Chantal, for a lovely tribute. I feel so lucky to have known Eve, if only for a short time. Way too short. And I feel very sad that I never got to ride with her. With a nod to the great musician Jackson Browne, I guess I thought she'd always be around.

Rafael Goodman
Rafael Goodman

My wife Crystal and I feel a deep sense of loss and regret that we didn't get to know Eve better; she was truly an inspiring soul. She will be in my thoughts every morning as I bike to work.

Donna Lebow Bogash
Donna Lebow Bogash

Thank you so much for writing such a beautiful tribute to my sister-in-law, Eve. As Khalil Spencer mentioned, she played the piano. She also played the harp and would fill the house with beautiful music each day. What a treat is was to dig out all our music books and sing with her for hours as she accompanied us on the piano. We miss her so much. Thank you again! ~ Donna Bogash

Khal Spencer
Khal Spencer

This has been a sad week for me since learning of Eve's passing, but in a way a joyous one too. For the last few months, Eve was physically stuck in a dying body although I am sure that spiritually, she was not stuck at all. Now the spirit has been freed completely and I am sure it is happy somewhere, flying free of the limits of this world without the bike or perhaps on a new incarnation of one. I grew to know Eve in the early 1990's. When I moved to Honolulu from New York in 1987 to take a job at the University of Hawaii, I was already seriously into cycling. My first few years on Oahu were involved in racing, bike commuting, and struggling to create a job for myself at UH Manoa as a new staff and then faculty member. But somewhere in those first few years it became obvious that the Hawaii Bicycling League would have to be an important part of my life, first of all because it organized the best rides, and second, as it was the only bicycling advocacy organization on Oahu. Obviously, Eve would be a part of my cycling life too. In the early 90's, a bunch of us HBL members reincarnated a dormant HBL Government Affairs Committee since we wanted to grow HBL in that direction and one cannot simply demand such things, one has to do them. Sure enough, with a critical mass of volunteers and a lot of enthusiasm, this role was added to the Bike League's important programs. It led to HBL, under Eve's executive directorship, sponsoring great rides and playing the key role for bicycling education on Oahu, but playing a key role in developing the 1999 Honolulu Bicycle Master Plan, recently revised. Plus, one of the key planners on that Master Plan, Tom Fee of Honolulu, is now an HBL Board member. I worked closely with Eve as an HBL board member during the second half of the 90's and as the League's Board president for two of those years. Working with Eve created a contagious enthusiasm in the organization and a "can do" attitude. I would often run into her on the road after a long work day as she led large group rides along the Oahu coastline as a cycling and fitness instructor. To Eve, the best way to end a long day at the office as HBL's Exec. Director was to have a great ride with HBL members. She was a great cycling role model. She knew that to grow cyclists into a cycling advocacy organization, you first had to grow the love of cycling into a lot of cyclists. As Paul Lebow said, Eve could see the spiritual value of people and of livable communities, not just the nuts and bolts of paint, paths, programs, and asphalt. She had that side of the brain engaged that we all need to keep active, the intangible values of having cities and communities that are connected by people and activity and not by cars or "transportation systems". Sort of a renewed Ahupua'a, i.e., a seamless connection to the land from the mountains to the sea. People walked. It was a human scale. Having dinner at her home one night, I became aware of her incredible ability on the piano. There is so much of each other we never know of unless we look carefully. Sadly, Eve was taken from us too soon. Aloha and A hui hou, Eve DeCoursey, Khalil J. Spencer Hawaii Bicycling League Life Member and former Board President/Board member Los Alamos, New Mexico

Paul Lebow
Paul Lebow

I must thank the folks at WABA and Chantal in particular for sharing Eve's memory with the rest of the community. When Eve tore herself away from her beloved Hawaii five years ago, she left behind all that was precious to her - the organization she nurtured, the vast network of friends and past students who adored her, her grown son, the Hawaiian culture she revered and all that makes Hawaii a true paradise. Upon stumbling upon the position at WABA she quickly turned DC into her new love and threw her all into this city - so fertile for cycling. While a cyclist through and through, she viewed cycling as part of a much bigger goal - a symbol of recapturing a sense of community which we have relentlessly and methodically purged from our culture in our 100 year dysfunctional affair with the automobile. For her it was always more than just the bike. She truly believed that rather than always throwing an engineering solution at a problem, it is possible to change human behavior. Pace Car, the effort to get folks to treat a city street as though their own child were playing on it, was one way she tried to tap into the power within us to make changes. She always reminded me of just how successful the campaign to stop smoking or to wear seat belts has been. Eve believed to her core in the goodness of humanity, that the indecent way we treat each other on the roads is an aberration forced upon us by the car culture. If there is any one legacy that I believe she would have dearly loved to see take hold is for these campaigns to change behavior be raised to a critical mass. Its free - we have the power change the way cycling and walking are viewed - as integral and vital parts of the city experience rather than afterthoughts begrudgingly recognized piecemeal. These types of public relations movements require a different kind of advocacy than we are used to - it takes a different emphasis than the incremental battles we are so used to fighting in the bike/ped community. I'm an old-school "fight-the-system" advocate myself - but I have come to believe that Eve had it right - rearranging the asphalt and white lines, is not the key to the cultural change we need.

Alison
Alison

Eve, I miss you every time I walk in the door. But I'm sure you're having a great time riding wherever you want for as long as want and pain free, so you go girl! a

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