Frederick, Md. – Purple jerseys. Purple bracelets. Purple tie-dye t-shirts. Anchor House cyclists wore the color purple on everything from helmets to ponytails to bikes Tuesday in memory of Princeton scientist Doug McCune.
McCune, who worked at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, died last year completing the final day of the 33rd Anchor House Ride for Runaways after he collided with a car.
As his friends and fellow riders biked the 72 miles from Winchester, Va. to Frederick, Md. Tuesday, they recalled his love for cycling and his dedication to Anchor House, the Trenton-based shelter for runaway and abused children and teens.
McCune, a 16-year Anchor House veteran and one of the top fundraisers for the ride, recruited friends to take part in the ride and also developed close friendships with people he met on the ride.
“Doug first encouraged me to do a 50-mile ride for Crawford House. At the time it was a huge undertaking for me,” said longtime friend Chris Kunkel of Hopewell. “Then he said `I bet you could do Anchor House.’ I was a little skeptical but then the next year I decided to sign up . It seemed like an insurmountable ride at the time, but we trained together and I did my first ride in 1997.”
McCune’s absence has been felt by all the veteran cyclists this week, but especially by friends like Kunkel and riding partner Steve Marinko of Berkeley Heights.
“It feels strange, because I associate the ride with Doug,” Kunkel said. “You spend all that time together on the ride as cycling partners and roommates. He was a very close friend.”
The two men had a lot in common, Kunkel said. They both were shy and reserved, both got married late and both lost siblings unexpectedly. McCune attended Kunkel’s wedding, they both celebrated their 50th birthdays together, and helped each other with home improvement projects.
“He was a personal advisor, someone I looked up to, took a lot of advice from, and had a lot of respect for,” Kunkel said. “I talked to him about relationships a lot before I got married. He had a lot of good advice.”
Kunkel and Marinko both recalled McCune’s calm and gentle nature.
“He never got angry or upset,” said Marinko, who first met McCune on the 1996 Anchor House Ride. The pair rode at the same pace and got along well, and remained riding partners until McCune’s death.
“He was an unselfish rider,” Marinko said. “He always gave everything he had when he was riding at the front for the group. He was always trying to help out the group.”
Marinko also appreciated McCune’s sense of intellectual curiosity.
“His reading and interests were not confined to the area of science,” Marinko said. “He was interested in public policy and non-fiction. He was working on a project to develop a computer software program that would find a way to draw up legislative voting districts fairly in order to take politics out of the process.”
McCune’s wife sent letters to McCune’s ride sponsors before this year’s ride, seeking donations for Anchor House. Marinko said McCune had established an amazing network of sponsors, and more than 15 sponsors had already responded to the letter before the ride began.
“He passed away doing something he loved to do, and he did a lot of good. We can be thankful for that,” Kunkel said of his friend.
Krystal Knapp is a cyclist on the 34th annual Anchor House Ride for Runaways. For more information about Anchor House or to make a donation visit www.anchorhouseride.org or call (609) 278-9495.