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Back on the bike

After not riding a bicycle for 50 years, centenarian doesn’t forget how

Published: Monday, July 7, 2014 10:50 p.m. CDT • Updated: Monday, July 7, 2014 10:55 p.m. CDT
(Photo provided)
Mill Race Cyclery owner Bruce Heidlauf walks with Clara VanBosch, 100, as she rides a trike. The Geneva business participated in the surprise for VanBosch while she recovers from an illness at the Briarwood Healthcare at GreenFields of Geneva.

GENEVA – Clara VanBosch was born 100 years ago on Jan. 24, 1914, in a house on Dean Street in St. Charles and had not been on a bicycle for 50 years – that is, until she just rode an adult-sized tricycle provided by the Mill Race Cyclery of Geneva.

“I really enjoyed it,” VanBosch said. “It was a big surprise to me. Four girls came in my room and said, ‘Clara, we have a surprise.’ And they took me out in the front and all of a sudden, I see this guy coming with this three-wheeler. Oh my God, I was surprised myself.”

VanBosch has been at Briarwood Healthcare at GreenFields of Geneva while recovering from an illness. Activities coordinator Erin McCart learned that VanBosch loved to ride a bike and missed the activity.

She called Mill Race Cyclery owner Bruce Heidlauf to see if he could participate in a bike-riding surprise for VanBosch – and he was immediately on board.

“I was kind of thinking, ‘Is she actually going to be able to ride?’ I didn’t know what to expect,” Heidlauf said. “She was the cutest little, spunkiest little lady, and she just took off. I was running to keep up with her.”

Heidlauf and the facility staff created a small looped course in the parking lot of Briarwood, so VanBosch could use the bicycle.

“I figured I would be walking alongside her, but I had to run to keep up,” Heidlauf said. “It was a lot of fun. I was kind of blown away by what she did. She went around a couple of times. She had the greatest time and the greatest attitude. I would take it [the tricycle] out again if they asked me to.”

VanBosch said she would be ready to ride it again, as well.

“I really enjoyed it. He was the nicest person,” VanBosch said of Heidlauf. “He was standing there, and I’m off. And then he caught up with me. He said, ‘I’m getting exercise to catch up with you.’ I kind of looked behind me, and I saw him running to catch up. I did enjoy it. It was such a big surprise. It certainly was a nice surprise.”

VanBosch said her maiden name was Cailliau. She said she was the youngest of five children all born at home in a house on Dean Street in St. Charles.

“When I was young, I rode an awful lot with the bicycle with my older brother alongside me,” VanBosch said. “Not only that, I went roller skating at rinks and him, too. He was good for it for being a brother. I would also walk miles and think nothing of it.”

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