April 1, 1947 – April 21, 2012
It was a beautiful East Texas morning with its clear, crisp, dark blue sky painted with rays of sunshine across a gorgeous green panorama of creation. The sounds of nature permeated the country side. In addition to these sounds were the mechanical sounds of bike chains, shifting gears, and application of brake pressure on the rims of bicycle wheels. Then if you listen carefully, you could hear the rhythmic deep breaths of riders as they pumped their legs to overcome gravity up and down the hillsides. These were the sounds of the 8th Annual Tour de Cypress bike race in Mount Vernon and the surrounding piney woods and lakes of Franklin County. It could not have been a better day.
One of the registered riders looked forward to this day of riding where he broke away from his daily routine of riding familiar routes of twenty miles per day and the busyness of life to venture into God’s creation one more time, free to be. This rider, through his rhythmic breathing, held a conversation with a fellow rider as they traveled along the 100K route through the county. As they approached the beginning of one of the many hills on the course, the rider challenged his race-mate with a grin on his face, “I’ll race you to the top of the next hill !” Off he took, accelerating and attacking that hill with power and grace at the same time, leaving his race-mate behind.
His race-mate watched her challenger with amazement as he blasted ahead. However, the race-mate’s gaze became one of concern and dismay. The “winning rider,” Gary Ovard, made it about halfway up the hill and began to swerve side to side, departed the paved road, plunged into a ditch, and slammed into a barbed wire fence. EMT rescuers performed CPR on Gary and rushed him to East Texas Medical Center ER in Mount Vernon for critical treatment. However, in spite of all the heroic attempts of caring for Gary, Gary’s physical life gave way, and he entered eternal life with his Lord.
We of the Mount Vernon Rotary and all the staff and participants of the Tour de Cypress are saddened on the outcome of this sixty-five year old, physically fit, child of God going to his eternal home. Our prayers continue to be with Gary’s family, co-workers, fellow cyclists, those who rode with him that day, and those who treated him to save him. He will be sorely missed.
Even though it hurts to lose some one in this manner, so suddenly, without warning, his wife and several of his close friends said that Gary wouldn’t have it any other way for he passed into eternity doing what he loved to do. He was running the race in God’s beautiful creation and crossed the finish line. Furthermore, many stated in various words, “You never know when or how you will take your last breath of life here on earth, so make each moment count.” Gary, may you rest from your labors. In the mean time, we will see you later!
Rev. Dr. Jack Wallace, Pastor, First United Methodist Church, Mount Vernon, Texas