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Mark J. Reynolds

From the Orange County Register - Friday, January 16, 2004 

He blazed trails in friendship 

Friends of mountain biker Mark J. Reynolds share stories in Anaheim about the man who made them laugh.

ANAHEIM - Meet Mark J. Reynolds, goofball.

There he is in a photograph, mooning the camera amid a group of mountain bikers.

One day while riding on the trails he loved, the Foothill Ranch resident - killed last week by a cougar - saw a pretty German woman perform an
impressive maneuver on her bike.

"I love you!" he screamed out. "I love you! Will you marry me?"

While on the biking trails, Reynolds broke out into songs like "Close to You" when he bumped tires with other riders, or "All By Myself" to gently
tease somebody who had fallen behind.

More than 100 friends gathered Thursday to eulogize a funny, warm and totally cool human being. The 95-minute memorial service was held nearly a week to the hour after Reynolds' mutilated body was discovered in Whiting Ranch Wilderness Park, partially covered under brush about 40 yards from the Cactus Ridge Run bike trail he had been on.

It was the second memorial service this week for the Foothill Ranch resident. Wednesday, family and friends in the biker's hometown of St. Joseph, Mo., laid him to rest. His death Jan. 8 in the jaws of a mountain lion was the first of its kind in Orange County.

"I couldn't have had a better friend," said Sean Regan, 32, a member of Reynolds' 16-member mountain racing team, the San Diego-based Fitness in Motion. "He would do anything for me."

Before the service, several racing buddies stood in a circle, trading stories about their latest rides and scuff-ups on the trails - just like Reynolds would have liked it.

Inside Sunkist Community Church in Anaheim, they recalled the 35-year-old as being much more than just a competitive racer who idolized bicycling champion Lance Armstrong.

Donations to buy bikes for underprivileged kids, a cause of the late Mark J.
Reynolds, above, can be mailed to:
OMS Sports,
Attn: Mark J. Reynolds Memorial Children's First Bike Fund,
2300 E. Katella Ave., Suite 430,
Anaheim, CA 92806
(714) 935-0790

They remembered a single man who loved his family back home in Missouri and who adored children. For the past several years each holiday season, Reynolds raised money to buy bikes for about 10 to 20 underprivileged kids.

They recalled a one-time awesome volleyball player who, despite his 5-foot-9 frame, became an excellent ball placer.

They talked about how Reynolds scared the bejesus out of them when he drove down the freeway in his red Toyota Tacoma, fumbling for CDs that usually turned out to be music from the '80s.

They discussed his love for stupid movies like "Dumb and Dumber."

And how he always carried his cell phone while biking.

If you caught him on a ride, he'd say: "I can't talk now - I'm doing my homework!"

Reynolds was an exceptionally skilled mountain biker who modestly played down his racing accomplishments and touted less-skilled riders, friends said.

One pal, Melissa Fletcher, always got a congratulatory e-mail from Reynolds, no matter how well she did in a race.

"Fletch, you rock!" the message would say.

Reynolds stared out at his weeping friends from a poster-size photo placed next to a tire-shaped wreath on the altar. In the photo, he was wearing his ever-present grin.

He was a true participant in life, not a spectator - someone who knew how to celebrate, not sulk, friends said.

His horrific death is mystifying, they said.

"It's unexplainable," said Regan, an electrician from Encinitas.

Reynolds' body was discovered after a 122-pound male cougar attacked a member of the Trails Angels club, whose members frequent the 1,600-acre park. That woman, Anne Hjelle, 30, of Mission Viejo, remains in fair condition at Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo.

Examiners at the Orange County coroner's office are conducting DNA tests to determine whether the same cougar believed to have killed Reynolds also attacked Hjelle. Human tissue was found in the big cat's stomach.

Results of the DNA test could take two weeks. Until then, Whiting Ranch will remain closed.

Hjelle mother, Sally, attended the service, accompanied by Hjelle's riding partner, Debi Nicholls, who engaged in a fierce tug-of-war with the cougar when it had Hjelle by her head.

Two male mountain bikers who heard the women's cries helped scare the big cat away by pelting it with rocks. Sheriff's deputies later killed it.

"She's doing good," Sally Hjelle said of her daughter.

Reynolds' employer, the marketing firm OMS Sports, organized the memorial service.

Reynolds was an account executive who represented professional motorcycle racers - his passion while growing up.

Friends said the attack won't keep them off the trails.

"Our friends and family are more concerned than we are," said Rob Mikuteit, 35, of San Diego, who raced with Reynolds.

"They see (mountain lions) as a constant threat, but we've been out there riding for years. The real threat is miniscule. This was just a fluke. You can never plan for something like this."