It’s James Ramsey and his wife Dee’s 15th-annual vacation down in Florida.
A cool summer breeze blows over the beach softly, mingling with the ocean. The water ripples. The sand shines under the sun. Life is peaceful.
But suddenly, James cannot breathe. He feels a pain in his arms run up his neck. A man in a golf cart drive him back to his condo, and after taking the nitroglycerin, James feels better.
James thought this heart attack was just angina, which would improve with treatment. However, later that night, he had another heart attack, and this time, the nitroglycerin did not fix anything.
“Okay, we’re going to the hospital cause we have done it so many times,” James said, “but this time, the doctor says you’re not going home.”
So James had two choices: Stay, or die.
He would have to have the bypass surgery on the first day of his vacation.
Yet, James said he was neither afraid of the surgery nor death. The only thing he fretted was the impact of this surgery on his part-time career, that of a reserve police officer.
James, at the age of 54, wondered if he would have to give up the job he loved.
He didn’t want to. He said he still remembers the moment he decided to be a police officer for the rest of his life.
It was 24 years ago. The 30-years-old James was volunteering at the police department.
One afternoon, James and another officer were working on a crash. The accident blocked the road. People driving by were looking at what was going on while James was directing traffic. At that moment, it hit him – he was making a positive contribution.
“I wanted to be part of the solution, not part of the problem,” James said, “and as a police officer, I was part of the solution, and that was what drove me.”
James finished the police officer training academy at the age of 48 with outstanding performance, and he started work as a reserve police officer in the same year.
He said he looks after his gun and his uniform as his child. He hangs all his badges and his award certificates on his wall.
But what about his health? Is it worth his life to continue his work?
James remembers his father, who he said influenced him the most.
His father had him at the age of 17, and James jokes that children raised him up. Through his childhood, his father played with him, took him to different places, and did many fantastic things. His father taught him how to hunt, James remembered, they were like best friends.
James was even named after his dad, James, and he considers himself the extended version of him, the guy who will get up and go to work no matter how sick he was.
“I watched him hacking and throwing up and he would go to work,” James recalled. “There was a running joke where he worked in, ‘If Ramsey did not show up, he was dead.’”
Since his father could stick it out, why couldn’t he?
After all, he has Dee, the caring wife who always supports him. James says Dee is around whenever he needs help, and Dee packed a lunch for him every single day he was on duty.
Even during the unexpected surgery, Dee said she tried to be organized.
She recalls getting up to walk the beach before going to the hospital every day, sitting in his room even if James was sleeping from his medication. She asked friends to pray for them, and found help from her sister to fly down to Florida.
Even after the surgery, Dee still supported her husband being a reserve police officer, because she knows he just wanted to help.
She says it’s the reason she married him 40 years ago.
Eight years after bypass surgery, James retired in 2015 at the age of 63. He feels much healthier than before, and has started the new challenge of learning Chinese.
So if someone asked James, “Is doing what you love worth your health?”
His answer would still be yes.
Ten people pedal down Main Street slowly on a pub bike, chairs and pedals groaning after constantly hitting bumps and potholes.
“Hey you, in the street,” one of the riders says as he drinks a Miller Lite. “You should jump on and help us pedal to go faster.”
Loud music plays, the group chants, and car honks echo down the street.
Janelle Ford, owner of Pedal City, says the business offers both pedaling and drinking, while touring downtown. Pedal City stays open all year. There are bookings in December and January for the pub bikes.
“When I first saw them on YouTube, there was people in the snow in Minnesota,” Janelle says. “They were working up a sweat when they were riding the bike. Right now, it kind of slowed down. I’m like, ‘This is the perfect weather for people to be on those bikes instead of when it’s a hundred degrees out.’”
The pub bike makes various stops at downtown bars depending on where the group wants to go, including Henry’s and JK O’Donnell’s. Tonight’s group even brought their own cooler of alcohol.
The pedal pub bike started in 2013. Then Janelle says she wanted a big, active outdoor area, so she opened a standalone bar in 2015. It offers ping-pong, corn-hole, basketball, and board games.
Janelle says there are different events that happen every week. There are evenings specifically for belly dancing, live music, business meetings, or doggy-date night.
Janelle owns four pub bikes that only two have electric motors to assist with pedaling. Each one can hold up to 14 people, but it only takes 10 to do the work.
The idea is for adults to drink and have fun without having to worry about drunk driving. But she says, sometimes, the pub bike without the motor becomes difficult for people to pedal.
“I would have never bought these if I had known,” Janelle says, “but I didn’t know up front, you know?”
According to the PedalPub website, the first party bike, actually started in Minnesota in April 2007. The idea originated from Het Fietscafé from the Netherlands, known for its beer bikes and pedaling parties.
Andi Jo, a customer of Pedal City from Fort Wayne, says she loved the idea since the start, and her first experience was with a bachelorette party. It was tough at first, due to all the girls being in dresses, but since, Andi has been on the pub bike multiple times.
“This has always been an experience that made me feel like we were all on the same team with the same goal,” Andi says, “and success is a morale booster, even if that means just completing the trip, without having to have someone tow us back.”
Andi says she first saw pedal bikes in Indianapolis, with The Handle Bar, and in Chicago, the PedalPub.
One of the drivers for the pub bikes, Moises Uribe, says he loves the people he meets. Moises enjoys jamming out to music and chatting with them.
Moises says a highly intoxicated woman once jumped off while it was moving, and there was a car coming in the opposite direction.
“Good thing the driver of that car saw them, with plenty of time and distance, so they were able to stop,” Moises says. “But yeah, she fell right in front of them.”
Moises says she wasn’t hurt at all or mad. She continued her night.
But not everyone is on board.
A Facebook page called “I HATE the Pedal Pub” was created to make an awareness that all pub bikes should be banned due to accidents, overpricing, and noise complaints.
But Andi says this activity can actually bring adults with similar interests together, and it isn’t just about the bikes, or the drinks.
“It’s really a friendly space that allows for a casual, fun, easy going, and interactive experience,” Andi says.
With “Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey blasting, and everyone singing along, the group makes its last stop at Henry’s to take shots.
“I told you so,” Moises says. “Everyone loves Journey.”
Near the border of Slovenia and Croatia, Amar Masri watched hundreds of Syrian refugees pour out of buses and into the cornfields.
After the first few buses, Amar noticed a man with his wife and two children, a huge smile on his face.
Chaos ensued once the buses began to leave, the man’s smile vanishing as he ran after, his wife screaming, her two children clinging desperately to her.
Amar thought they had left one of their children on the bus, but the family left their money instead, their only way of traveling to another country, a new home.
“With that particular gentleman, I didn’t know what to do,” Amar said. “But I know I have money in my pocket from home, and I looked at my friend and told him, ‘Officially, I am broke now.’”
Amar gave the man and his family what was left in his wallet, ultimately helping them reach their destination in Sweden.
Amar, born in Palestine and now living in Fort Wayne, was once a refugee himself. Knowing what it’s like, he said he felt something needed to be done.
“I’ve been through that once before. I’ve lost my homeland,” Amar said. “I became homeless overnight, but I was one of the luckier homeless people.”
He accompanied Sam Jarjour, a son of Syrian immigrants, and Caleb Jehl, a Fort Wayne native, on their trip to Europe last September.
Sam, Amar, and Caleb are each members of an informal group called Fort Wayne for Syrian Refugees.
Sam said the goals of the group include both educating the community and even resettling refugees in Fort Wayne.
They have spoken at many venues in Fort Wayne, including IPFW and Saint Francis, presenting the documentary of their trip, “The Flight of the Refugees.”
“They’re good people. They’re hardworking people. They’re fleeing incredible violence and incredible uncertainty in hope of a better life,” Sam said. “I really think it’s my, and our, humanitarian duty to do something to try and help.”
Sam said the trio, along with his cousin Elias Matar, a filmmaker living in Los Angeles, set out to document the massive amount of people fleeing to the refugee trail, helping as they could.
According the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, millions of Syrians continue to flee into neighboring countries and into Europe, due to the outbreak of a civil war in 2011.
“We have this connection to Syria, and we’ve had to sit by and watch the civil war destroy our country, and watch our relatives flee either by leaving the country or being internally displaced,” Sam said. “The huge numbers of people being killed or injured, it just really felt horrible not to be able to do something.”
So the group spent nine days on the refugee trail, starting their journey in Austria and making their way through countries such as Serbia, Croatia and Macedonia.
After renting a van and hiring a cameraman in Vienna, they purchased food, water and blankets at a grocery store for the refugees.
The group first planned to go through Hungary, but the country closed its borders a day before they arrived.
Forced to take a different path, they ended up in Sid, Serbia, where busloads of refugees were being dropped off in a cornfield with no one to guide them.
“These people have to walk between three and five miles that take you out into a field, around the actual frontier, and back into the next country,” Sam said. “Since they didn’t have visas, they had to walk around the borders, and they were allowed to do it in a semi-organized fashion.”
One of the people Sam remembers was a 3-year-old girl named Elma. Sam watched her cross into Serbia, along with a female aid who helped take care of children.
“There’s always this uncertain future. They weren’t free from violence once they hit Europe,” Sam said, his voice cracking a little. “To see Elma like that, with such an uncertain future, was really hard for all of us.”
Sam said Elma safely made it to Sweden.
But for Caleb, one of the most challenging things was wondering what would happen to the refugees.
He said he thought people coming from the Middle East would have basic survival skills, but found they were pretty much exactly like him.
“I think that’s an important thing to remember,” Caleb said. “A difference in religion, culture, or skin color doesn’t really make us all that different in the end.”
Caleb said the group plans to take a trip to the Beqaa Valley in Lebanon in October, to help the refugees in the same way they tried to help the Syrians.
Amar said the refugees in those camps go as far back as three generations.
“Those people are the forgotten people,” Amar said. “They have no identity, no passports. They can’t go anywhere, so they are stuck in those refugee camps.”
As for the family that accidentally left their savings on the bus, Amar stayed in touch with them.
“Through social media we connected, and then all of the sudden they just fell off the face of the earth,” Amar said. “But I’m sure they’ll come back.”
He still has a picture of the man and his two children in his pocket, just in case.
The Mastodons hockey team will play Adrian University at 6 p.m. Oct. 15 at SportONE Parkview Icehouse.
“I’ve lived my whole life revolving around hockey,” Captain Derek Moss said. “All the kids that have played hockey, we’ve always had the dream of going and playing pro.”
A senior general education major from Fort Wayne, Moss said Adrian will be one of their toughest games of the year. Moss believes they are a good school because they have a feeder system, which draws many hockey players, allowing Adrian to have four hockey teams.
Senior accounting major Grant Isenbarger, who was on skates around the age of 2, said the team will need to be selfless, and trust one another when playing against Adrian.
“One of our main focuses going into this year is staying out of the box, because we have 11 skaters,” Moss said. “So we are going to have to stay to our systems, keep everybody rested and fully energized.”
After serving as captain last season, Moss returns for his senior year as captain once again.
Last season the Mastodons played teams such as Michigan State and the University of Michigan, but Moss said he believes the Indiana Tech game is their most emotional one of the year.
Others are easier to enjoy.
“Eastern Kentucky University is our funnest trip of the year. We did it two years ago, and they came to us last year, but we go down to them this year,” Moss said. “It’s called Midnight Madness. We play them at midnight. It’s a crazy atmosphere, and they draw a lot of fans.”
Moss, Isenbarger, and Brendan Lewis tied for the most goals on the Mastodons team last season, according to the Pointstreak website.
Isenbarger said they also gained a better appreciation for hockey, especially at this level, because they know it will be over soon.
Despite this, they try to have fun in the meantime, because that is what the sport is all about, Isenbarger said.
IPFW Hockey event information:
- IPFW Hockey Home Opener
- Location: SportONE Parkview Icehouse
- Date: Oct. 15 at 6 p.m.
- IPFW Mastodons vs. Adrian University Bulldogs.