The lives to two Visalia men in their 90s collided tragically Monday.
One left a legacy of a loving family and grandchildren, while the other is wondering what he could have done differently.
About 9:05 a.m. Monday, Robert Seymour, 92, was out for a ride on his bicycle – bicycling was one of his passions – and was heading north on Santa Fe Street.
For unknown reasons, he drifted into the lane of travel of a 3/4 -ton Dodge pickup driven by John Havekost, 91, who was heading north pulling a 26-foot trailer.
Seymour collided with the trailer and went down by the side of the road.
Robert DeChance of Visalia was in his backyard when he heard the sound of a collision. He rushed to the front of his home, spotted Seymour on the ground at the entry to his driveway and administered CPR until police arrived.
Havekost said that he saw the bicycle rider and drove past him but did not hear the collision. But his passenger did hear something and said, “I think he hit the trailer!” Havekost said Tuesday.
Seymour was taken to Kaweah Delta Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.
Seymour was wearing a helmet, police said. An autopsy is planned to determine the cause of death. There is no indication that alcohol was involved, Sgt. Damon Maurice said.
The accident remains under investigation.
Robert ‘Bob’ Seymour retired to Visalia, ran his first marathon at age 76, gave up running when it got too hard on his knees but took up bicycling and rode long journeys three times a week. He died in a cycling accident Monday at age 92.
Seymour, who went by “Bob,” lived life on his own terms.
He ran his first marathon at age 76, clocking 4 hours 40 minutes. His children said he ran his second marathon a year later but gave up running because it was too hard on his knees.
So he took up bicycling, going out three times a week for 20-mile-plus journeys and routinely conquering Rocky Hill east of Exeter. The last couple years he cut back to 10 to 15 miles per ride.
He mowed his own lawn, usually in the heat of the day so as not to disturb his neighbor who worked late and slept during the mornings. Then he would reward himself with a root beer.
His wife, Roberta, died four years ago, and he had been living on his own since. Saturday, he toured the USS Midway Museum in San Diego.
“He was up and down those ladders like it was nothing at all,” said his son, Tom Seymour of San Diego.
Seymour grew up in Hanford, served in the Navy during World War II, and graduated from the University of California, Berkeley. He was an electrical engineer in the aerospace industry and owned his own business, Seymour Instruments, in Orange County until he retired.
He took pleasure in counting the number of children and great grandchildren he had – 20 grandchildren and 33 great-grandchildren at last count.
He built a vacation home at Shaver Lake and for decades went on a yearly backpacking trip to Rattlesnake Bridge on the south fork of the San Joaquin River between Florence and Huntington lakes.
He moved to Visalia more than 13 years ago and the neighbors knew him well.
“He talked to all of us,” said neighbor Leslie Steffen. “He liked everybody.”
“It’s a crying shame,” said neighbor Faye White. “He walked with his wife and they’d hold hands walking in the neighborhood.”
Could I have done anything to keep it from happening? I’ve had a driver’s license since I was 16. This is my first experience with an accident of any kind. I feel so bad for the family.
Havekost is a retired Tulare County probation officer who lives in Visalia, where he indulges his wood-scrolling hobby making replicas of eagles, jewelry cases and decorative objects.
He had recently sold a trailer to a neighbor and was hauling it to a mobile home park for her to live in.
His wife, Kathy, was in the car behind him and witnessed the accident just north of Monte Vista Avenue where Santa Fe narrows.
“He was merging closer and closer,” Kathy said. When she realized he wasn’t stopping, she said to herself, “Oh, no, he’s going to hit the trailer! All of a sudden, he flips over.”
Havekost, who did not know Seymour, said, “It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever experienced in my life.”
“Could I have done anything to keep it from happening? I’ve had a driver’s license since I was 16. This is my first experience with an accident of any kind. I feel so bad for the family.”
Robert ‘Bob’ Seymour
Born: Aug. 4, 1923
Died: April 4, 2016
Funeral services: 10:30 a.m. Thursday, April 7, at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 650 N. Lovers Lane, Visalia
Survivors: Children Tom, Bill and Steve Seymour, Sharlet Lasley