The American Birkebeiner lost one of its most inspirational skiers and one of its founders on Monday, when David Landgraf died of injuries he suffered in a cycling crash.
The 61-year-old retired school teacher was one of only three people to have finished every Birkebeiner, since the first race in 1973.
"He was an amazing person and part of the very fabric of the Birkie," Ned Zuelsdorff, the ski foundation's executive director said in a statement issued Tuesday. "To see Dave in that lone, red Founders' bib, coming across the finish line with men many years his junior, is just a testament to Dave's spirit as a person and an athlete. He represented something very special to so many skiers."
"On behalf of the American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation, we all extend our thoughts, prayers and condolences to Dave's family at this difficult time. He was a cherished part of our Birkie family and the cross-country skiing community, and we will miss him."
Zuelsdorff said discussions about a memorial to Landgraf would take place, after the shock of his death subsides and his family has time to grieve in private.
Landgraf was hit by a car on Friday evening, while he biked on Highway 27 south of Hayward. The driver reportedly turned to speak to the children in the back seat of her car, and did not see Landgraf in time to avoid hitting him.
A celebration of Landgraf's life will be held on Saturday, August 13, 2011, at 11 a.m. at the Bloomer Middle School, with lunch following in the cafeteria.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be sent to Bank Mutual in Bloomer for the Bloomer Track Program or Ski Strong, or to the Chippewa Valley United Way. Checks should be made payable to either "Bloomer Track Program" or "Ski Strong," and sent to Bank Mutual, 1203 17th Avenue, Bloomer, WI 54724-1622.
In his hometown, residents remembered him as a stern and respected track and ski coach.
“I’ve been a friend of his forever, and I would say he is my hero,” Dr. Richard Gladitsch told the Chippewa Herald.
“I think the real legacy of Dave is he had a lot of integrity and encouraged hundreds of people to live a life of integrity and do things to improve their mind, body and spirit,” he said. “He was so important to so many people’s lives. His integrity is something everyone who knew him would agree on.”