My father known as The Bicycle Man locally, fell ill earlier this year and my mother had to pick up the reins. This is their story.
By Catherine Pritchard
In a warehouse near Hope Mills, work is under way on donated bicycles that will be given to needy children come Christmas.
But it’s without the supervision of Moses Mathis, the man who founded and led the giveaway for more than two decades.
Illness and poor health, including congestive heart failure, diabetes and pulmonary disease, have plagued the 76-year-old Bicycle Man since late last year. He has been confined for months in medical facilities as he tries to recover his strength.
“Right now, the medical part is stable but he’s still weak and he can’t get out of the bed and walk,” said Ann Mathis, his wife of nearly 46 years. “They’re trying to get him strong enough to do that.”
But the charity he built is still powering forward. Donated bikes are being repaired by longtime workers in a warehouse, which was made available to the operation last year. The giveaway in December is still on track. And Ann Mathis, who has been an integral part of the charity but was in the background, is overseeing things more directly.
“I’m doing the bicycle stuff,” she said.
She also is overseeing her husband’s care, now at Woodlands Assisted Living and Rehabilitation Center on Pelt Drive. Ann Mathis, who’s 67, said she spends most of her days there, sitting with her husband.
“He knows when I’m not there and he’s looking for me,” she said.
Sometimes, she said, the Bicycle Man asks her how things are going with preparations for the annual giveaway. Other times, he doesn’t. Ann Mathis said her husband’s illnesses, including a mini-stroke, and long confinement in bed have taken a toll on his short-term memory and quieted his usual chattiness. She said she’s been told these are temporary issues that should improve as his health does.
Ann Mathis said she doesn’t know when her husband may be strong enough to come home.
“I’m not worried about that right now,” she said. “We just take it one day at a time.”
When the Bicycle Man’s health problems became public in March, Ann Mathis said people from around the state sent them a deluge of well wishes – and some donated money to help with his medical bills.
“People just don’t know how much I appreciated it,” she said. “They just do not know.”
The bills continue to mount but Ann Mathis said she can’t worry about that.
Her main concerns are Moses, and the needy children who will be looking for bicycles come Christmas. The Bicycle Man and his elves typically give away hundreds of bicycles each Christmas.
“We need bicycles,” Ann Mathis said. “But we need small bicycles, 20 inches and down, for little kids on up to seventh- and eighth-graders. If we can get the small bikes that would be great.”
She said she hopes her husband will one day be able to take the helm of the beloved program that he founded. But in the meantime, the Bicycle Lady is steering the handlebars.
“Everybody calls me ‘Miz Moses,’ ” she said with a laugh. “I tell everybody I have a name and it’s ‘Ann.’ ”
Bicycle donations are accepted from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at the Bicycle Man’s warehouse at 1800 Wynfare Drive off John Smith Road near Hope Mills. The mailing address is Tiffany Pines Community Center, 624 Platinum St., Fayetteville, NC 28311, and the number is 424-3083.
Cards can be sent to Mathis in care of Woodlands Assisted Living and Rehabilitation Center, 400 Pelt Drive, Room 504, Fayetteville, NC 28301.