Houston News & Search
Though she was a bit of a cycling novice, Keri Guillory threw herself into training for this year’s BP MS-150 ride.
Soon, the 48-year-old mother of two was riding dozens of miles every weekend with her husband, growing stronger, getting ready for the annual Houston-to-Austin ride.
“Train hard enough, and I’ll get you across the finish line,” 53-year-old Michael Guillory told her.
He will keep that promise Sunday in an unimaginably tragic way after an oncoming blue Dodge Stratus plowed into him and his wife in Waller County last month.
Guillory was badly hurt, but rushed to try to help Keri, who died at the scene. The driver, who also struck and killed 37-year-old Craig R. Tippitt and nearly ran over a fourth cyclist, faces murder charges.
As he lay recuperating in a the hospital, Guillory vowed to carry out his promise. The entire family agreed.
“We have to make sure her ashes go across the finish line,” said Blake Eberhardt, Keri Guillory’s 25-year-old son.
“It was just a given,” added his younger brother, Cody.
Guillory, a burly drill-bit maker who works for Baker-Hughes, lived in Louisiana before meeting Keri and moving to the Houston area. After the two started dating, he eventually asked her sons’ permission in 2007 to marry Keri, who worked in shipping logistics.
“She was a joy to be around,” he said. He still wears the green bracelet participants received more than a month ago at the start of the Waller ride that cost his wife her life.
One of the reasons they’d started biking more was to get in better shape and keep up with her toddler grandson, Peyton, who she doted on.
They’d planned to ride on the Baker Hughes team, he said. The two were among more than 9,000 riders who signed up this year to participate in the ride, which raises money to fight multiple sclerosis.
On Saturday, he arrived at Tully Stadium in west Houston with Guillory’s two sons and her brother. Hundreds of cyclists in technicolor spandex crowded into the starting area as loudspeakers blared.
It was the kind of scene that would have delighted Keri, said Gregg Blanchard, her younger brother.
“She would probably be taking selfies with everyone,” he said.
News of the deaths had rippled through Houston’s cycling community in March, and on Saturday, memories of the tragedy were still fresh.
“It’s always been a fear of mine, but I always thought of it as a ridiculous anxiety,” said Corrie Bowling, who was riding with St. Arnold’s Brewery’s team. “But when things like this happen, it just reinforces it.”
“When we heard about the riders who were it, we were devastated,” said Ted Banaglorioso, a five-time MS-150 veteran riding among a crew of orange-spandex clad emergency medical technicians. “That could be us too. That’s how we feel every time there’s an accident.”
Gray clouds filled the sky. A stiff wind blew through the early morning air. Around 6:45 a.m., the riders started rolling out. After about 30 minutes, once most of them had passed by, Guillory walked over to his wife’s bike. He picked up a small rack bearing a tawny, wooden box, carrying his wife’s ashes. He strapped the small chest to the back of the new pink Granite Peaks Roadmaster.
He wore her cycling bib number — 2440 — and a white T-shirt with her name and a drawing of a bicycle between two angel wings.
Guillory, his step-sons and his brother-in-law lined up at the starting line, before a Montgomery County Sheriff’s deputy rushed to hug him, and started weeping.
“It’s OK, it’s OK,” he said, as he embraced Capt. Cheryl Hillegeist, who worked the day of the crash.
She frequently saw the couple on group rides. They had passed her just minutes before, she said, recalling cheering them on.
The she got a call a rider had been hit. She rushed to the scene, to find Guillory bleeding in a ditch on the side of the road, willing his dying wife to hang on.
“They had such a strong family bond,” she said, choking up. “We were both telling her, ‘Hang on, just hang on.'”
Guillory wouldn’t be biking most of the route. He is still recovering from the injuries he’d suffered that day — he broke three bones in his left arm and hand, and has a still-raw laceration just above his left knee that has not yet completely healed.
But he and his relatives planned to journey along the ride route, camping in LaGrange on Saturday night with the rest of the Baker Hughes team. On Sunday morning, they will release balloons in honor of Keri.
Then they would drive to Austin ahead of the bulk of the riders, and fulfill their promise to Keri, to carry her across the finish line.
“I know its going to be hard,” he said. “In Austin, especially. She’ll be with me, but not really with me.”
Houston News & Search