This is a tribute to one of my bicycling heroes, Lionel "Lee" Rombach. He died last month at the age of 93.
Up until a few years ago, Lee logged thousands of miles per year on a used Univega six-speed. Meanwhile, Ina the Car sat at home, gathering dust. He only drove a few hundred miles a year.
I met Lee a few weeks after I moved to Tucson, during the endlessly hot summer of 1987. I was having a lot of trouble handling the heat, so I wasn’t doing too much daytime riding.
But there was that ride to the Food Conspiracy Co-op on 4th Avenue. Outside the co-op was a little old man on a bike that obviously had a a lot of miles on it. We got to talking, and wouldn’t you know it, that heat just seemed to vanish.
He introduced himself as Lionel Rombach, said he used to work in probation, and that his bike was his main form of transportation. What he didn’t mention was that he was the retired chief of Pima County Adult Probation, but that was Lee. He was a pretty modest fellow.
That fall, I got a job with the fund-raising arm of the University of Arizona, and wouldn’t you know it, one of the UA’s most steadfast donors was…
He wasn’t up there at the top of the "most dollars donated" list, but he probably gave a higher proportion of his earnings than any other UA donor.
I remember being at a luncheon where he was being honored for his scholarship donations. He was quite gracious in thanking the organizers, but he noted, "You’re rewarding me for something I ought to have done."
That was Lee.
This past Saturday, a funeral Mass was celebrated at the Catholic Newman Center at the University of Arizona…
As for Lee’s bike, it came to church, just as it did during his lifetime. It was parked in the back during the funeral Mass…