Belleville journalist and cycling advocate Roger Kramer died suddenly on Saturday. He was 51.
Kramer, who worked at the Belleville News-Democrat for 20 years as a design editor and copy editor, was an avid bicyclist, photographer and devoted Three Stooges fan. He cofounded the Tour de Donut and the Tour de Stooges bicycle rides. He won the Tour de Donut one year, riding his bike fast enough and eating enough doughnuts to post the winning time.
"You got five minutes off your time for every doughnut you ate on the ride, and I think he ate about 14 doughnuts," said Jerry Whittle, fellow rider and member of B.A.B.E.S. -- the Belleville Area Bicycling and Eating Society. "He was proud of that."
The Tour de Donut was one of Kramer's more "deviant" ideas for promoting cycling in the metro-east, or so he described it on his popular blog, RogerKramerCycling.org. While he acknowledged that doughnuts are not the healthiest food for cyclists, he and some friends devised the event as a spoof of the Tour de France -- and it got rolling in 1989. With five minutes off for every doughnut, Kramer was the winner in 1995.
Kramer died of natural causes at his home in Belleville. Born in Alton, he grew up on the family farm in Brighton, to which he returned every Sunday to visit his mother and help out around the farm, friends said.
Kramer attended Southwestern High School and Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. He served as a journalism instructor at SIUE for several semesters, beginning in 2008.
Kramer rode literally thousands of miles on his bicycle in the U.S. and Canada. His blog at RogerKramerCycling.org became a key site for local cyclists to find information about the sport in general as well as local rides and trails. He helped develop B.A.B.E.S. from a small, informal group into a large cycling organization with more than 100 members.
The Tour de Stooges was Kramer's project from the start, Whittle said. When Kramer briefly lived in North Carolina in the 1990s, he still came back to keep the ride going.
"He was a big Three Stooges fan," Whittle said. "They all have a theme, and he thought the Stooges would be a fun theme ... The different routes have Stooges names, and after the ride, he set it up so you could watch the Stooges movies while you ate."
Kramer kept his co-workers on the copy desk entertained with his Stooges impersonations. He could recite dialogue from any Stooges short you could name. He liked them all except for the ones featuring Joe Besser.
Now in its 15th year, more than 600 riders participated in the most recent tour. And the Tour de Stooges will go on with B.A.B.E.S. running the show, Whittle said.
"Roger did the majority of the work; it will be difficult without him," Whittle said. "But we're going to start getting ready in a couple of months."
Kramer also loved music, hiking, photography and exploring the natural beauty of the terrain on foot as well as on two wheels.
Many friends have posted on Kramer's Facebook page about his sense of humor and dedication both to cycling and to journalism. On his blog, Kramer wrote that his philosophy of cycling was simple: "I will continue to ride my bicycle as long as it remains fun. When it isn't fun anymore, I will stop."
Kramer is survived by his mother, Jean Kramer, of Brighton, and two sisters. He was preceded in death by his father and brother.
Visitation will be from 4 to 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Targhetta & Wooldridge Funeral Home in Brighton. A prayer service will be held at 5 p.m. A funeral Mass will begin at 10 a.m. Wednesday at St. Alphonsus Catholic Church in Brighton, with burial in Brighton Cemetery. Memorials may be made to the Easter Seals Society.