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A Tribute to Mike Nagy, Climate Rider, who will ride with us in spirit

Recently, we very suddenly lost a beloved Climate Rider to cancer. Mike Nagy was planning to join us on the Bar Harbor to Boston Ride this fall. Mike was kind and always had a smile. We were fortunate to ride with him in 2017 on the Blue Ridge to Washington DC Ride and again in 2018 on the Michigan Climate Ride. We asked his friend and teammate, George Chmael, a SustainaFest Board Member who introduced Mike to Climate Ride, to answer a few questions about Mike so everyone on the ride will know who is sending them tailwinds. Thanks for riding with us Mike, you’ll be missed.

You introduced Mike to Climate Ride?

“Mike was a SustainaFest supporter from the beginning. He recognized the power of education and outreach to help people live more sustainably and to connect young students with the possibility of careers in social enterprise. He was also an avid cyclist so when I told him that SustainaFest had been approved as a Climate Ride beneficiary and that we were going to do a ride as a fundraiser, he was the first to commit to joining me and, within days of finishing the Blue Ridge Ride in 2017 suggested to me that we do a Climate Ride every year. From the beginning, he was our biggest advocate and best recruiter.”

Why was Mike riding?

“Mike understood the power of sport to connect people together and build community. And, through his career as a land-use attorney and earlier work as a landscape architect, and his close connections to the Chesapeake Bay, he had a strong understanding of our environmental challenges, the consequences of unchecked consumption and fossil fuel use, and the realities of climate change. Given the opportunity to: 1) raise funds to support SustainaFest, 2) bring greater attention to the climate crisis, 3) pursue his passion for cycling, and 4) spend a good portion of the year training with friends, Mike didn’t hesitate. Not only did he participate in our first two Climate Rides (and was signed up to do this year’s ride), but he was also our greatest recruiter and fundraiser for Team SustainaFest. He was truly the heart and soul of our Team. Mike was also well-informed about climate change and a brilliant thinker. He was very concerned about the current path we are traveling and knew that dramatic action is necessary to reduce carbon emissions. At the same time, Mike had a great talent for placing the need for change in human behavior into practical terms, terms that most anyone, regardless of knowledge or political persuasion, could appreciate. Mike knew that we need to act fast and he was adamant about taking action himself.”

What was it like to hit the road on a bike with Mike?

“Riding with Mike was an exercise in non-stop laughter. There are literally hundreds of stories, all of which tie back to something he said or did that left everyone laughing. Mike was always the first to engage with people he didn’t know, invite them along for the rest of the ride, or share a drink and a story in camp that night. Every rider on the Blue Ridge Ride in 2017 and the Michigan Ride in 2018 got to know Mike, including Climate Ride’s staff. If I had to choose a story, it would be Day 1 of the Blue Ridge Ride, a day when we cycled 91 miles and gained thousands of feet in elevation. It was a hard cycling day and Mike was among the last on the course as the end of the day neared. Another one of our riders, Joe Boucher, waited with one of the CR staff at the top of a hill near the end of the course and the plan was to scoop Mike up into the sag wagon once he crested the hill. Suddenly, Mike went peddling by and told Joe they had better get moving if they were going to make camp before dark. The CR staffer suggested that Mike hop in the van and Mike politely told him “there’s no way in hell” he’d get in the van and not finish the ride. Not only did he finish but he made sure to thank the CR staffer for his concern and assistance and then led the partying in camp that night. While he never found himself near the back of the pack on subsequent rides, he always made sure to get to know each and every one of the CR staff and let them know just how much he appreciated their support. I can’t count the number of times he stopped to help riders in need, both on our many, many training rides and on each Climate Ride in which he participated. Mike was also a rockstar fundraiser, always raising the most of any of our Team members. He threw himself fully into Team SustainaFest and Climate Ride and was always thinking of others along the way, encouraging them to join the Team for the cause, the health benefits and the camaraderie. And his support of others wasn’t limited to our cycling community. Early in his career, he struggled with depression and, later in life, always found time to offer support to young people struggling with mental health issues. He was a rock for his family and his friends. Cancer took him quickly, a mere seven weeks passed in the period between my last ride with him, his subsequent diagnosis and his passing. In the last few weeks when he became gravely ill, his friends turned out en masse to support him as he went through a last-ditch chemotherapy effort, ensuring that he had round-the-clock company in his hospital room as he underwent the unimaginably painful treatment. Up to the end, he was making jokes with hospital personnel and talking about getting back out on his bike with his friends. And, despite the shock of his sudden passing, his wife chose to have all donations be made to his 2019 Climate Ride because she said the Team and the Ride “meant everything to him.” He is once again the leading fundraiser on our Team for this year’s Ride.”  

Mike was riding for Team SustainFest. Can you tell us about Sustainafest?

“Our Mission: To educate and engage people of all ages and interests to take action in their everyday lives to strengthen our community, improve our environment, and support our local economy. Our Approach: To leverage the power of cutting-edge film, awe-inspiring music, visionary speakers, social entrepreneurs, seasoned educators, and innovative projects to spark dialogue, spotlight innovations, and catalyze new solutions. We live at a time of great challenge and opportunity, a time when we are being called to reinvent the very foundations of how we live and interact with each other and the natural environment. SustainaFest is about connecting people and ideas. It’s about celebrating our successes while pioneering new approaches to living inharmony with each other and the planet. Learn more at our website.”

What should everyone know about Mike?

“Mike saw the best in everything and everybody and never took a moment for granted. He was humble, appreciative of all the opportunities he had, and always on the lookout for the well-being of others. He truly embodied the Climate Ride spirit of using personal challenge as a means to change lives and build an effective, citizen-based sustainability movement. Mike’s brother recently told me one of his favorite cultural traditions he had encountered during a career marked by global travel was one in which a person is said to live for as long as they are remembered. As I’ve since told many of our friends, by that standard, Mike will live forever.”   You can visit Mike Nagy’s memorial fundraising page here.