Shawano Pathways honoring one of its own

Late volunteer gets bike route dedicated to her memory
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Contributed Photo Barb Mader, who passed away in June, volunteered every year for the Bike the Barn Quilts. Even though she didn’t ride the long distances herself, she enjoyed riding her bicycle around her own neighborhood at Koonz Lake.

Barb Mader was an integral part of the Bike the Barn Quilts event held in late September. She was always helping to set up the directional banners that show bicyclists the course to take.

Mader’s daughter, Heidi Bedwell, lives in Seattle and has never participated in Bike the Barn Quilts, which features routes between 5 and 70 miles all around Shawano County and showcases some of the almost 340 barn quilts dotted along the countryside. Bedwell will be bicycling this year, however, after Shawano Pathways decided to designate one of the routes in honor of her late mother, who passed away June 17.

The route designated for Mader is the 35-mile trek from Memorial Park in Shawano to the village of Gresham and back again. As an added bonus, the route includes alternate areas that are a little more hilly and totals 50 miles.

“It was actually the suggestion of Matty (Mathison with Shawano Pathways) to honor my mother, because this was a special thing for my mother to be involved in,” Bedwell said. “I’m going to be stepping into something that was my mom’s, so that’s great.”

Bedwell noted that while her mother enjoyed riding a bike, she never rode long distances like those who participate in Bike the Barn Quilts.

“In her neighborhood, she would definitely bike a lot,” Bedwell said.

The daughter recalled her mother telling her about having to get up early in the morning on event day and going out with cans of spray paint to make arrows to help bicyclists see when turns needed to be made.

“I think she enjoyed not just the biking but being part of the whole organization with Pathways,” Bedwell said.

Mader moved to Koonz Lake near Gresham in 2002 with her husband, Mark. She was a teacher, with her last assignment at Menominee Tribal School being cut short when she was diagnosed with fallopian tube cancer.

“When she got sick, she said, ‘Somebody needs to get on my bike and ride my bike,’” Bedwell said. “She was hopeful that she’d be around this year to help in some way.”

Shawano Pathways is sponsoring a barn quilt in honor of Mader. The quilt pattern, being painted by Jim and Irene Leuenberger, is based on a forget-me-not flower and will be hung on a barn owned by Doug and Pam Huck at W10488 Big Lake Road near Gresham. It will be along the main 35-mile route.

“We were looking for a barn to put the quilt on, and we found this one and pulled into the driveway to talk to Doug Huck,” Mathison said. “Most of the time, folks need time to think about putting up a barn quilt, but he said right away he would.”

Huck knew the Maders, which was a factor in his agreeing to host the barn quilt, according to Mathison.

The opening ceremonies Sept. 29 will also include a tribute to Mader. Dr. Richard Sarnwick, a member of Shawano Pathways and Democratic candidate for the Wisconsin Assembly, will play “Amazing Grace” on the bagpipes. As Sept. 29 was also Mader’s birthday, Pastor Blake Blakesley from First Presbyterian Church will play “Happy Birthday” on his banjo.

“We’re going to get everyone’s attention and say that this ride is going to be in memory of one of our Pathways members,” Mathison said. “We’ll explain a little about her and what she means to the event.”

Last year’s Bike the Barn Quilts had more than 300 participants, about 50 of whom rode the route being dedicated to Mader, according to Mathison.

Bedwell said she was initially concerned when she learned her parents were moving to a rural community, fearing they would be alone in their golden years. The tribute by Shawano Pathways showed her that she was wrong.

“The truth is, they’re surrounded by so much community, it’s wonderful,” Mader said. “They have people like the Hucks and Matty, who come together when people need things, to celebrate and memorialize.”

AT A GLANCE

WHAT: Bike the Barn Quilts

WHEN: 9 a.m. Sept. 29 (except for 40- and 70-mile routes, which start at 8 a.m.)

WHERE: Memorial Park, 909 S. Lincoln St.

ONLINE: www.shawanopathways.org

FYI: There will also be a barn dance from 6-10 p.m. Sept. 28 at W7950 Oak Ave., Shawano. A barbecue supper and live music by Burnt Toast and Jam will be part of the entertainment. The full meal is $12, but it’s only $7 for those who just want to skip the meal and go straight to the dance. Advance tickets are available at Glas or Coldwell Banker: The Real Estate Group.