Steven Pringle, the 57-year-old owner of Build a Bicycle — Bicycle Therapy in the U.P. town of Kingsford, who was the subject of a recent profile in the Detroit Free Press, was killed in a car accident in Punta Gorda, Florida, on Nov. 23.
He had driven down there that day to hand out free bicycles to kids displaced by Hurricane Ian in September. And so his last gesture encapsulated his life’s purpose.
The story in the Free Press, which was published Nov. 6, followed him on a two-day spree of impulses and random generosity that ended with the police being called on him for riding a horse through downtown Iron Mountain.
He was born and raised in Marquette, enlisted in the Army, served in Lebanon in the ‘80s, came home to Michigan, became a car salesman and eventually had his own auto dealership.
But he fell on hard times and lost everything. A few years ago, while down on his luck and living in an old camper, he had an epiphany one night that led him to start a bike repair business with the sole purpose of giving troubled veterans something to take their minds off their problems for a while. “Bicycle therapy,” he called it. Somehow it evolved into a real bike shop. And even though he kept giving away bikes for free despite everyone’s advice to quit doing so, the shop inexplicably kept growing more successful.
“He went through a lot of things in his life and he had seen a lot of things, and I think at some point he really found God and really felt like God was with him in everything he did, and he really wanted to do as much good as he could,” his 39-year-old daughter, Torri Pringle, of Peoria, Illinois, said. “I think it really just made him happy.”
According to his family, Steven Pringle was driving a truck with a trailer full of new bicycles behind it when he passed through an intersection where the stop sign had been blown down by the hurricane. He was struck by a driver with such force that his truck reportedly hit a pole and rolled over, killing him instantly.
He leaves behind six children, five grandchildren, his girlfriend Lindsey, his horse Andy, his dog Lacey and countless customers, friends and people who knew him only as the friendly stranger who gave them a bike for free.
“I’ve got people reaching out to me saying, ‘Your father changed my son’s life for the better,’ ” said his son, 38-year-old Jason Pringle, who traveled to Florida to deal with the aftermath of his father’s death. “One lady said, ‘We couldn’t afford a bicycle and your father gave my son a bicycle.’ I was really blown away at the impact that he had.”
The family has set up a GoFundMe account to pay for the funeral and to carry on his charity work with bikes, possibly with annual giveaways to kids in need. “It was something that meant so much to him that it’s a way to let his name live on,” Torri Pringle said.
Someone erected a memorial at the intersection where he died: It’s an old bike, painted white, with debris from the accident fashioned as a cross and the phrase “May the legend live on,” written in marker on the frame. The family has no idea who put it there, but they say it demonstrates the reach of Steven Pringle’s work.
“It’s a beautiful thing that these guys are still recognizing my father for the work that he did,” Jason Pringle said. “He was working with children going down the bad paths in life and showing them there’s a better way to life; that there’s ways to find adventures with bikes rather than taking these dark roads. So to see that he impacted the community in these good ways and these people are recognizing that with this small monument is really great.”
John Carlisle writes about people and places in Michigan. His stories can be found at freep.com/carlisle. Contact him: [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @_johncarlisle, Facebook at johncarlisle.freep or on Instagram at johncarlislefreep.