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Biker Bob Byers

Couriers honour mentor

City's oldest messenger dies on job
More than 100 attend impromptu wake

Toronto Star, June 18, 2005

By Sikander Z. Hashmi


 He was their mentor, their "grandfather."

They were his life.

More than 100 bike couriers working in the city's core came out to remember Bob Byers, who died Thursday while on the job. He was 58.

"I'm blown away," said Jim Byers, "Biker Bob's" younger brother, as the crowd gathered on the sidewalk in front of the Duke of Richmond on James St. Byers died on Thursday afternoon of what his friends believe was likely a massive heart attack.

John, a courier who didn't want to give his last name, recalls passing Byers at the corner of Queen St. W. and James St. that afternoon and saying "Hi." About 10 minutes later, Byers reportedly turned purple and collapsed. He died soon after.

The crowd of couriers, dispatchers, drivers and walkers gathered to pay their respects to Byers and to have "a beer for Bob."

"We're gonna ... send him off peacefully to heaven, where he belongs," said Eric Wuttunee, one of the organizers of the wake for Byers, who had been a courier for 18 years.

There's no question that Byers was a giant in the courier community. A gentle giant.

"He was a great guy all around," said Wuttunee.

"He was always more compassionate to younger guys coming on the road, always trying to give them the lowdown of the do's and don'ts as a courier.

"No matter what age you were, he'd always talk to you as if you were the same age as him."

It's believed that Byers was the oldest courier in town.

"I will forever be a rookie to this guy," said a courier, who didn't want his name used.

"He was always in a good mood," said another.

"Fiercely independent" is how Jim described Byers. "He was the family hermit."

But that didn't diminish his fondness for his brother.

"He was completely invincible till yesterday," Jim Byers said.

Kip Gordon said his uncle's biggest fear was to become incapacitated before he died.

"He just wanted to ride."

But there was no riding or driving on Queen St. for a couple of minutes as the couriers took to the street and lay down their bikes in memory of Byers.

"It was a hero's goodbye, I guess," Gordon said.

"I lost 20 pounds the first two weeks," he says. I love this job. I
love being outdoors, and l love the people. The people are great.
Ninety-nine per cent of them are naturally nice. And they all like me
because I'm old.
- Biker Bob on messengering, 1993

GGo to the Messenger Memorial for more on fallen messengers


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