Faculty Member Preps for Two-Wheeled Tribute to Late Brother

As an athlete, coach and teacher, Ronald E. Kodish has made a lifetime commitment to keeping fit and staying healthy. That purposeful pursuit will wind its way along Route 6 in the coming weeks, as enduring love fuels a memorial bicycle ride through the picturesque wilderness of the Northern Tier.

On July 25 – four years to the day since his brother, Raymond S., succumbed to lung cancer at age 60 – Kodish will embark on a 400-mile journey in “Bear’s” honor. Starting near Erie, at the northwestern corner of Pennsylvania, he plans to average about 50 miles a day on a fundraising trek to the commonwealth’s eastern border near Port Jervis, N.Y.

Carrying a photo of his inspiration, Ronald E. Kodish prepares for a 400-mile bicycle ride across Pennsylvania. (Photo by Teresa Kodish)

With no signs of slowing, let alone retiring, the 63-year-old assistant professor in Pennsylvania College of Technology’s physical fitness specialist major logs a minimum of 150 miles each week. He has upped that recently, brutal heat and booming thunderstorms notwithstanding, as the “Bike for Bear” tribute nears.

“I’ve been doing 250, 300 miles a week lately,” he said. “If I’m going to be riding seven or eight days in a row, three or four hours in the saddle every day, I need to get some miles on these legs.” His wife, Teresa, an elementary teacher in the Keystone Central School District, will follow him with the family dogs and a pop-up tent, setting up a home away from home at a strategically chosen chain of campgrounds.

“We picked the starting date because it fit with our life schedules,” he said. “Then my sister reminded me that July 25 is the actual day that Ray died, so the ride has taken on even greater significance. There will be tears of sadness along the way and tears of happiness when I’m done, and there won’t be one pedal stroke that I won’t think of my brother.”

Barring inhospitable weather or major mechanical breakdowns, he hopes to finish by Aug.3 at the latest.

All proceeds from the 11-county ride will benefit the LUNGevity Foundation, the leading private provider of research funding for lung cancer; Kodish has set a modest $2,000 goal in his homegrown attempt to raise money and awareness of the pervasive illness.

“It’s too late for my brother, but it’s not too late for someone else’s brother … or father … or uncle,” he said. “Ray was a 40-year smoker whose cancer was diagnosed at Stage V. I tell my students, ‘If you smoke, stop now. You’ll never regret quitting.'”

Kodish comes by his fit-for-life attitude naturally. His late father, Raymond A., was a renowned college and professional athlete, a beloved basketball coach and a repeated Hall-of-Famer throughout the region. He and his siblings – brothers Ray and Richard A., and sister Rita Filohoski – followed in those sneakered footprints; their orbit was a flurry of practices, game nights, news clippings and trophies by the case.

Ron continued to make headlines as coach of the Lady Wildcats, leading them to a 2006 state championship. Hardly surprising for this life of sports, sports and more sports. (No surprise, either, that “Bear’s” final Twitter message, barely a month before his passing, was “Watching the Phils hammer the Red Sox, finally.”)

Kodish’s athleticism, optimism and dedication will come in handy during a week or so on the road. His ride comes on the heels of the Tour de France, in which European counterparts traversed torturous switchbacks in the Pyrenees Mountains. And while Route 6 won’t be nearly as demanding, it holds some fairly steep climbs.

Making his up-and-down way through such communities as Warren and Kane, Wellsboro and Mansfield (where his father met a young coed named Eleanor Jones, kindling a relationship that endured for more than 60 years), and Tunkhannock and Scranton, Kodish will be joined at various points by encouraging well-wishers. Some will ride along for a few miles, others will offer hospitality.

He draws inspiration from all of it: his friends, family (with shameless bias toward his children and grandson), his brother’s undying spirit, his students and campus colleagues, and a simple desire to achieve something that matters.

“I’m trying to make the most of my ‘dash,'” he said, referring to those years represented by the line between one’s birthdate and death. “My mother said, ‘You’re always challenging yourself.’ And I told her, ‘If life’s not a challenge, it’s not much of a life.'”

Comments – 8 Comments

You go, Ron! Bear is watching over you! And so is your dad!

Posted by Kay Dunkleberger at July 23, 2013 at 7:51 am

Good luck, Ron, on the ride! It is great you are doing this.

Posted by Tim Mallery at July 23, 2013 at 12:35 pm

What an awesome way to remember your brother. If anyone’s can-do attitude can accomplish this, it’s yours! Good luck!!

Posted by Toney Harstead at July 23, 2013 at 2:39 pm

Be sure to have some good ‘ol tunes to keep up the pace! Be safe and have a blast!

Posted by Gail Ritchey at July 23, 2013 at 4:36 pm

Pedal on, Ron!!!!!!!

Posted by Cheryl Dempsey at July 23, 2013 at 7:41 pm

May the force be with you! You are an inspiration to all of us 60ish peers!

Posted by Barbara Natell at July 24, 2013 at 10:07 am

With your “new look,” you’ll be a bear on the road. Safe travels and kudos to your partner T-bird. She’ll keep you paced!

Posted by Gail Landers at July 26, 2013 at 10:33 am

Good luck, Ron – be safe!

Posted by Karen Wright at July 30, 2013 at 8:21 am

Pennsylvania College of Technology is a special mission affiliate of The Pennsylvania State University