The local cycling community is mourning the loss of one of the pioneers of the Grafton to Inverell Cycling Classic earlier this week.
John Robert (Jack) Griffin died at the age of 80 on Tuesday.
Jack, along with Harold Strahley, rode in the inaugural event in 1961 and he went on to serve as a committee member for 30 years, including 25 as race director.
After becoming a professional cyclist in Queanbeyan at the age of 16, Jack also competed for the St George Professional Cycling Club in Sydney, before making the move to Inverell.
Jack was always involved in the Grafton to Inverell as a competitor, official or spectator.
He continued to ride even in his later years and completed his last Grafton to Inverell in at the age of 71 in 2003, where he finished in official last.
Former 2NZ manager and family friend Greg Kachel said Jack was an outstanding man who will be sadly missed.
“He was just a tremendous bloke,” he said.
“A bloke that was always larger than life, always good for a laugh and with a grin on his face,” he added.
Greg said Jack was a real driving force behind the Grafton to Inverell and played a huge part in keeping it going.
“He did everything from receiving entries, to publicity and media… Just a tremendous job and he was hugely respected in cycling circles.
“It was his baby… He would come back every year, even last year. I doubt he ever missed one.”
Greg said he spoke with Jack only six days before his death and took the opportunity to thank him for his contribution to the sport.
“I told him he’d left his mark on our lives and done as much as he could on this earth for the sport he loved and he told me he really appreciated that.”
Jack also owned his own bike shop on Byron Street for 32 years, before making the move to Port Macquarie in 1995.
Greg said during that time there wouldn’t be many cyclists from Inverell who would’ve had a bike that wasn’t made or worked on by Jack.
One of his employees during this time was current Inverell Cycle n Tri Club president Andrew Blake. Andrew worked in the shop on Saturdays while he was still at school in the early 90s and remembers Jack as being a fantastic boss.
“I never saw him without a smile on his face,” Andrew said.
“He was always happy and ready to get someone onto a bike.
“The Grafton to Inverell wouldn’t be what it is today without him.
“It’s a very sad loss and on behalf of the club I’d like to offer our condolences to his family.”
Robert Munday, a fellow Grafton to Inverell director, said Jack was responsible for taking it from a grassroots to professional type of event.
“In about 1980 he secured some pretty good sponsorship, he was really breaking new ground,” Robert said.
“He played a big part in bringing in internationals and really turned it from an amateur to a professional event,” he added.
Robert said he had a lot of great memories of Jack through the years.
“One thing I’ll always remember is that he was a very good speaker.
“He could make any speech sound interesting. I really loved to hear him tell a story.”
Robert said Jack never lost his passion for cycling and continued to ride great distances, even in his later years.
“He rode right up until his illness and he used to tell me about all these trips he was making and they were a couple of hundred k’s.”
Robert said he will remember Jack as a gentleman who was always easy to be friends with.
Away from cycling, Jack was heavily involved in other areas of the community during his time in Inverell.
He served local government in Inverell for 12 years and was deputy mayor for four years, while he also served the Presbyterian Church as an elder, leading the church’s Boys’ Brigade, and for 15 years he was a member of Rotary, including a year as president.
Jack was also honoured with an Order of Australia Medal (OAM) in 2003 for his efforts for cycling, as competitor and administrator, and to the Inverell community.
Greg Kachel said he is hoping there will be a memorial service held in Inverell for the local cycling community to pay their respects.