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Kona cyclist remembered on annual ride to honor victims

May 18, 2017 - 12:05am

KAILUA-KONA — A handful of avid cyclists gathered early Wednesday evening in the pouring rain to send a message through silence, and in that way make some noise for a peer of theirs no longer able to speak for himself.

About a dozen people, many of them members of the Hawaii Cycling Club, met outside the Kona Community Aquatic Center for the annual Ride of Silence — an international observation of remembrance in honor of cyclists killed on public highways. It is held each year on the third Wednesday in May.

“We want to draw attention to the dangers cyclists face on our roadways and to remind motorists to be aware that we’re out here,” said President of the Hawaii Cycling Club Pam Harlow, adding the occasion was important enough to brave the rare inclement elements in downtown Kailua-Kona.

“This is a special day,” she said, “so I think we can afford to get a little wet.”

This year’s ride was held to honor a sole individual, Richard Topenio, 42, who was killed on an afternoon in January as he rode his new bike southbound on Queen Kaahumanu Highway back to his wife and two daughters.

Jeffrey Pelham, 60, of Kamuela, was driving the truck that claimed Topenio’s life. He was later arrested on suspicion of negligent homicide and operating a vehicle while intoxicated. The case has not yet concluded.

Joyce Davis, Topenio’s cousin, made the trek from Waimea with her son to participate Wednesday.

“It’s awesome that they’re doing this for (Richard),” Davis said. “It’s not enough that (Pelham) is still walking around free. There’s no justice for (Richard) yet. It’s kind of a remembrance for him before his wife and the kids leave. It’s kind of like a closure for me.”

Topenio’s wife and mother were not in attendance Wednesday, Davis told the group during her address before the ride. She said that for them, the pain of his loss is still too fresh for them.

Topenio’s wife, a native of the Philippines, plans to return there permanently within the next few weeks with her daughters.

Members of the club responded to Davis by lamenting the senseless crash that claimed her cousin’s life, acknowledging somberly how easily it could have been one of their lives abruptly lost.

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