Obituary: William McHenry Keyser, 1952‑2020 | Obituaries | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Obituary: William McHenry Keyser, 1952‑2020

Founder of the Shelburne Bike Club lived by a motto: "Go fast, take chances"

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William McHenry Keyser - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy Photo
  • William McHenry Keyser

After struggling with aggressive pneumonia and complications from lifelong diabetes, William McHenry Keyser died peacefully on December 15 with his wife, Virginia, by his side near their new home in Lake Wales, Fla.

Mac was born on August 2, 1952, in New Bedford, Mass., near Marion, a treasured place where he spent time every summer with his family. The son of R. Brent Keyser and Helen Angier Keyser, Mac spent his youngest years in his father’s native Baltimore. He attended the Gilman School and the Harvey School and later graduated from Middlesex School, where he was known as a hardworking student and a steady competitor in sports, including soccer, ice hockey and lacrosse. He graduated from New England College in New Hampshire, majoring in business. While attending NEC, his love of music and skiing led to his moonlighting as a disc jockey at the local radio station and working on the ski patrol at nearby Pat’s Peak Mountain. Upon graduating, he moved to Vermont, where he resided for more than 40 years.

At an early age, he contracted juvenile diabetes, to which he responded with discipline and fortitude for the rest of his life. He did not allow this disease to slow him down and responded by living his life by his famous motto: “Go fast, take chances.”

During summers in Marion, he became an accomplished sailboat racer at the Beverly Yacht Club with a natural hand on the helm and a knack for the preparation and maintenance of his Tempest class boat. Mac loved to tinker, take things apart and make them whole again, usually while helping a friend in need. He seemed to have every tool. If something needed to be fixed, Mac knew how. He was able to repair his favorite Porsche and his many Saabs, as well as help many friends with their vehicles. He was best known for his ability to work on bikes. Whether you called him “Uncle Mac,” “Mac-a-tack,” “Mackie” or “the Macker,” you knew a bike dropped off for a simple tune-up would be returned spanking clean and perhaps with one or more parts completely rebuilt.

The Shelburne Bike Club, established by Mac in the 1980s, continues to this day as the Wednesday Night Riders. For many years, his house was the starting and finishing point for these after-work evening rides, and as friends brought friends, they too became part of the fabric of his life. The long, spectacular Vermont summer evenings provided a memorable backdrop for easy times — rides, food and cold beer.

Biking was also a path for exploration for Mac. He led many trips throughout New England, Québec, Canada, and in the U.S., and he helped form the Vermont Iowa Pedalist (VIP) group, which participated in the Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI), riding across Iowa on a dozen different Julys. Mac’s biking trips introduced many nieces and nephews to biking, and he made permanent friends along the way.

A bachelor for much of his early life, Mac finally gave his heart to Virginia Keyser. Introduced by mutual friends at an Easter lunch, their courtship included Virginia’s indoctrination to biking, and they were married in August 1996.

Mac will be remembered for his love of puzzles and his competitiveness playing backgammon — best played with a mai tai in hand. He looked equally at ease wearing bow ties, cycling spandex or suspenders with his Carhartts. His nieces and nephews fondly recall visits from Uncle Mac, never knowing if he would show up in a sports car or a pickup truck. He was always willing to help another in need. His humor and good nature kindled many loyal friends. His strength and ability to meet his many health challenges stoically and without complaint never wavered, and amazed us all.

Over the course of time, however, the wear and tear from his medical conditions presented greater and greater hardships. Virginia was his partner in facing the daily challenges, and they strived to live life to the fullest, doing the things they loved together. Mac always lived his life on his terms, and when his body finally ebbed, he was ready with courage to say goodbye, and he slipped away from us into a calm sleep, perhaps sharing a hint of his smile. He was a remarkable soul and will be remembered and profoundly missed by so many who were fortunate enough to know him.

Mac is survived by his wife, Virginia Bartholomew Keyser; his mother, Helen A. Trumbull, and stepfather, Walter H. Trumbull; his sister, Leigh Keyser Phillips (Peter); his brothers, Donald A. Keyser (Anne) and Peter S. Adamson (Mary); and numerous nieces, nephews and godchildren. He was predeceased by his father and his sister, Elizabeth H. Keyser Evans.

Given current COVID-19 restrictions, a memorial service will be held in the future. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Mac’s memory to his boyhood summer camp, Kieve Wavus Education, P.O. Box 169, Nobleboro, ME 04555 or Local Motion, 1 Steele St., Suite 103, Burlington, VT 05401.

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