In an emotional gathering, much of Anchorage’s cycling community came together Sunday to remember a man they described as someone who lit up a room, a day after he lost his life in a hit-and-run collision.
Friends and family of 51-year-old Jeffery Dusenbury, who liked to go by Jeff, met at 84th Avenue and Spruce Street -- the location where Dusenbury was struck by a black Chevrolet pickup truck, which Anchorage police say was being driven by a 17-year-old girl.
The public event was quickly convened in the hours after police identified Dusenbury Sunday morning. APD spokesperson Anita Shell says charges are pending in the incident, once an investigation is completed.
More than 200 people attended Sunday’s memorial at 3:30 p.m., with organizers having asked people to bike to the scene in Dusenbury’s honor. Many of those present cried and a moment of silence was held for Dusenbury, with friends speaking at 4 p.m. about their memories of him.
Channel 2’s Facebook users also expressed their loss Sunday.
“Jeff was a great person,” wrote Karen Willis. “His personality lit up the room (with) positivity and Melissa and Madie, well, his eyes always lit up when I asked about them. The community will miss him very much.”
“Jeff was an amazing man,” wrote Drew Johnson. “He will be missed by so many people. Such a kind and genuine man. Thoughts and prayers to his family and friends. We will miss you Jeff.
One of Dusenbury’s many friends, event organizer Peter Van Tuyn, said Dusenbury worked as a food salesman and had a weekly appointment to go biking at 10 a.m. Saturday -- shortly before the 10:15 a.m. crash in which police say a truck backed into both him and a fence post, then headed south along Spruce Street.
"I'd call him a bicycle evangelist, because he really preached the gospel of the bicycle and he lived it," Van Tuyn said. "And that means not anything spiritual so much, it's just, 'Get out and enjoy life, whatever your mode -- just get out there and you'll find the joy in it.'"
Van Tuyn said cycling was a passion of Dusenbury’s, and that he was at his happiest during his Saturday rides.
Another friend of Dusenbury's, Mike Vania, says his devotion was summarized in a personal slogan.
"His motto was, 'Why suffer a little when you can suffer a lot?'" Vania said. "It was not good enough for him to go out for a half hour or 45 minutes -- he had to just drive himself into the ground every time he went out."
According to Vania, Dusenbury wasn't just his personal best friend, but the best friend of many who attended Sunday's memorial.
"I don't know what we're going to do without him," Vania said. "He's just one of those guys."
An Anchorage funeral for Dusenbury will be held Thursday at 6 p.m., in the ChangePoint Alaska church at 6689 ChangePoint Dr. Like Sunday's memorial, it is also open to the public.
Channel 2's Blake Essig and Samantha Angaiak contributed information to this story.