Dick Voss’ chosen family pedaled on after their beloved cyclist’s journey ended.
In Arizona, a group embarked Dec. 12 to memorialize the late Voss, a tireless advocate for AIDS awareness and enthusiast for red high heels.
“Dick Voss pulled into the ride finish point,” longtime friend Jeff Ramberg wrote metaphorically in a Twin Cities Bicycling Club blog post. “It was a long, tough ride fraught with hills, headwinds, stormy weather and maybe even a flat or two. Did I mention wrong turns?”
Voss died on Dec. 5 at age 77 after an eight-month battle with brain cancer. He’d most recently lived in Minneapolis and spent winters in Arizona. He’s survived by 15 siblings.
Voss knew how to lean into the power of a group. He grew up on a farm in the tiny southwest Minnesota town of Avoca as one of 21 siblings, and once he turned 18, he bid good riddance to the rural lifestyle. After graduating from Slayton High School he enlisted in the U.S. Navy, where he spent eight years on active duty. Voss then worked jobs with federal immigration services in St. Paul, the U.S. Post Office and Lunds and Byerlys.
Voss was a member of the Twin Cities Bicycling Club and St. Joan of Arc’s Catholic Church. He hung out at Sister Sludge coffee shop, where they called him “Snippy,” a testament to his whip-smart sarcasm and sense of humor.
“He was a man who didn’t sit around regretting anything,” said friend and neighbor Mark Scannell, with whom Voss organized Sunday worship services. “He stepped out and lived his life to the full in all the things he did.”
Time was not to waste, for Voss, and best spent in company of others.
But in the 1980s, Voss was a homebody, said his former partner of four years, Jeff Wozniak, who visited Voss during his final days. He said they often stayed home, as being gay was not as acceptable as it is now. Voss, a devout churchgoer who lived independently for most of his adult life, eventually became more outgoing.
Once, the couple traveled to New Orleans, where Voss celebrated his affinity for wearing crimson high-heeled shoes. He strutted down Bourbon Street, and later, he wore those heels on charity bike rides and during his final days as a mail carrier.
Philanthropy was central to Voss’ life. He was a regular on the annual Red Ribbon Ride since it started 16 years ago. The four-day, 300-mile trip between Minneapolis and Chicago raises money for HIV/AIDS. He missed just twice. Once because he had fallen and broken a collar bone. The other because of his brain tumor.
“His life was very compartmentalized. There were parts of it that each of us didn’t know about,” said friend and fellow cyclist Nancy Welsh. “They all sort of came together at the end.”
Until he died, Voss’ sister Anna Malay took care of him — and recalled the adventurous spirit of her older brother.
“He did what he wanted,” Malay said. “He just had to be free.”
As Voss lost motor skills on his left side, Malay and Welsh took him for a ride in a wheelchair on the recently opened Old Cedar Avenue bridge in Bloomington.
Services have been held. Voss’ family asks that donors contribute to Minnesota’s Red Ribbon Ride.