WEST FARGO — Keith Schoon was known throughout the area as the “Bike Man.”
The retiree became a beloved fixture in West Fargo for fixing and giving away thousands of bicycles from his home workshop. He died Tuesday, Oct. 1, at the age of 75, according to West Funeral Home.
On Wednesday, Oct. 2, Schoon’s home at 402 2nd St. E. was quiet as a light drizzle dampened a cart filled with bike tires and parts. Along the fenced-in yard, rows of bike tires were evidence of Schoon’s work and passion.
"I give away a lot of bikes. It's something I love doing," he told The Forum in 2013. "I've never charged a kid anything for fixing a bike. ... If I can break even (from a few sales), then I'm satisfied."
Schoon was born Sept. 27, 1944, in Minnesota and graduated from Fergus Falls High School. He served in the Air National Guard for 10 years. He and his wife, Carol, were married in 1965 and lived in Harwood, N.D., before moving to West Fargo in 1985, where the couple raised two daughters before Carol's death in 2001.
Schoon worked in manufacturing and later at a Stop-n-Go store before retiring and starting his bicycle hobby and business in 2008.
Strangers would often drop off bikes for Schoon to use. But in 2010, complaints surfaced over the number of bikes encircling his home, waiting to be fixed or used for parts. In the fall of 2011, the city gave Schoon an ultimatum, either put up a fence or get rid of the bikes.
At the time, Schoon, who was on a fixed income, said he understood the city’s position but that he would have a difficult time paying the estimated $3,000 for a fence around his property.
"It's gotten completely out of hand," Schoon said in 2011. "There's so many bikes out on the driveway and in the yard — I don't blame the city one bit. It's just been so busy."
But friends, neighbors and supporters helped Schoon raise money, and contractors offered to match the donations for materials and install the fence at no charge so he could keep doing what he loved.
“He was a local hero to a lot of the kids and a lot of the parents,” former Mayor Rich Mattern said Tuesday. Mattern had been the one to suggest Schoon solicit community help to build a fence. “The idea was let’s see if we can at least kind of hide these bikes. He was a good guy, he meant well. He’ll be missed in town. Maybe someone else in town or somewhere will take over for him, but he won’t be replaced.”
Schoon was known for the long hours he put in at his garage. He would get up just before 2 a.m. to put on a pot of coffee and be in his garage working by 2:30 a.m. Those early morning hours until 8:30 a.m., when he opened his garage door, were his most productive, he told The Forum.
His work crossed the world. In 2012, Schoon gave away 285 bikes to local children, and another 425 to a group that sends bikes to Kenya to be given to the poor there.
In 2013, Schoon was sidelined when a serious infection required immediate surgery and a long recovery. Shortly before returning to his bikes that year, he estimated he was about “250 bikes behind his normal work schedule.”
Along with fixing bikes, Schoon was known for his big heart and his belief in paying things forward. One woman, a single mother of a 4-year-old boy, told the story of how she had seen a small bike at Schoon’s home perfect for her son. Schoon initially said he was selling the bike for $15 and the sale was made. But, Schoon returned to the woman before she could leave his yard and said, "I can't sell you that bike for $15. You just take it."
He then reached into his wallet and handed her $60. He simply told her to pay it forward, according to a Forum column.
Visitation for Schoon is planned for 4-7 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 6, at West Funeral Home, with a prayer service at 7 p.m. A funeral is set for 11 a.m. Monday, Oct. 7, at Liberty Lutheran Brethren Church in Fargo, with visitation one hour prior.
He will be buried at Oakwood Cemetery in Harwood.