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Longtime Ashland resident dies on charity bicycle ride in Australia

Longtime Ashland resident Bill Harriff, 69, was killed earlier this month when he was hit by a car while on a bicycle charity ride in southern Australia.

Harriff was on a 1,000-kilometer ride to raise money to fight children's cancer and was about 15 kilometers from his destination of Adelaide when he was fatally injured, said longtime friend Karen Wraight of Ashland.

The collision happened in daylight on Oct. 12 when a car turned in front of Harriff at an intersection, said his partner, Kristine Davis, who plans to return to Ashland.

Harriff died two days later. Many of his organs, including corneas, liver, lungs and kidneys, were donated and the recipients are doing well, she said.

Harriff worked several careers in Oregon, including teaching blind children, building cabinets and working in information technology. The couple moved to Australia two years ago and were working at Guide Dogs SA/NT, helping vision-impaired people live independent lives.

"He had a lot of interests and a gusto for life and adventure, always up for the next challenge," said Davis, in a phone interview. "He had a low boredom threshold and loved the new and different, whether running, mountain climbing or (bike) racing. He wanted to live life fully."

Harriff was a native of Muncie, Ind., served in the U.S. Air Force and graduated in political science from Ball State University. He worked at Oregon School for the Blind in Salem and got a degree in special education from University of Northern Colorado. He moved to Ashland about 30 years ago, Wraight said.

Harriff was an avid rider of tandem bikes. He sometimes rode with Simon Wong, a blind person, Wraight said.

"A strong rider on his own account, Bill took on the tandem and raced with a vengeance," often with Wong as his stoker (the one who rides in the back), she said.

Before starting the 1,000-mile Australia ride, Harriff posted on his blog, "It'll be a lot of hard going, but nothing compared to what these kids face every day as they battle this terrible disease. And so I am taking on a personal challenge to raise funds to fight kids' cancer and give them the brighter futures they deserve."

At the time of his crash, Harriff had raised about $200. But that amount soared quickly to more than $8,200 after his death, said Davis, who had asked well-wishers to donate instead of sending flowers. Donations may be made to www.greatcyclechallenge.com.au/Riders/BillHarriff.

Harriff offered a prize of a free tandem ride on Adelaide trails for whichever donor guessed how many kilometers he would pedal in October.

"We'll stop along the way for coffee and cake at one of the cafe's along the trail & it'll be my shout! (Is that the proper use of Aussie slang?). Too many people have lived their entire lives in Adelaide and never enjoyed this beautiful trail. Be the first in your neighbourhood to make this 35 km ride on a tandem in one continuous ride with, as my friend Roley puts it, the bloody yank."

Harriff is survived by a son, Seth Harriff of Portland, a brother, Richard Hariff, of Solana Beach, Calif., a sister, Judy Uherbelau of Ashland, a former Oregon state representative, and many grandchildren, nieces and nephews.

— John Darling