The 33rd Annual Anchor House Ride for Runaways raised more than $400,000, but riders are mourning the loss of Doug McCune, who died on the final day of the weeklong ride.
McCune, 55, of Princeton Township died Saturday morning when he hit a stopped vehicle in Clinton Township. He was pronounced dead the scene.
It was McCune 16th year participating in the 500-mile bicycle ride from Jamestown, N.Y. that raises money for Anchor House, a shelter in Trenton for runaway, abused and neglected children and teens.
According to published reports, McCune was riding along Payne Road, just past the intersection of Route 31 in Clinton Township, less than 40 miles from Hopewell, where the riders would finish the trip.
“He hit a car that was trying to make a left turn into a gas station,” said Tim Quinn, a friend of McCune’s since 1988.
It’s not known what caused McCune to hit the car.
“For those of us who loved him, it doesn’t matter,” Quinn said. “I’ve ridden thousands of miles with Doug, he’s one of the safest riders, he never did anything that put himself or anyone else at risk.
“This was a great loss for everyone- for me personally, his family, for Anchor House and the kids and a great loss for the world,” Quinn said.
But most people probably knew little about McCune, because his friends say he was was modest, soft-spoken and humble about his accomplishments.
“He was a quiet, low-key guy,” said friend Steve Marinko of Berkeley Heights, Union County. “He didn’t like to talk too much about himself, even though he had a lot of reason to do so.”
A brilliant scientist, McCune was the co-head of the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory’s computational plasma physics group where he developed code and software for fusion experiments.
He was also one of the top fundraisers for the annual Anchor House ride, Quinn said.
McCune started riding in the annual event in 1994, after hearing Quinn rave about the ride.
Academically gifted, McCune enrolled at Yale at age 16, Quinn said. Later, he earned a computer science master’s degree from Drexel University, achieving a 4.0 grade point average while also working full-time.
“Doug was the smartest man I ever met,” Quinn said. “The word genius gets thrown around a lot, but Doug was legitimately a genius. “
McCune was also keenly interested in politics and active in the grassroots campaign to elect Rush Holt to public office.
“One of the people who worked tirelessly behind the scenes was Doug,” Quinn said.
And because he grew up in the suburbs of Boston, McCune was a Red Sox fan who would go online to check the sports highlights each night during the ride, Marinko said.
After the ride banquet on Friday, the two men walked past the hotel bar where they saw that the New York Yankees were losing 1-6.
“He took a small satisfaction in that,” Marinko said.
McCune was riding behind Marinko on Saturday morning when the accident happened at about 9 a.m.
“I heard the impact of Douglas colliding with the car,” Marinko said.
Fortunately, a paramedic vehicle was across the street and not en route to a call and was able to help Doug within moments. Additional paramedics were on scene within five minutes, along with police and fire.
“I didn’t think we were going that quickly and I was hopeful that whatever injuries Doug had suffered could be handled,” Marinko said.
But it was too late.
He is survived by his wife Susan Jeffries, Quinn said.
On Saturday afternoon, the more than 200 riders made their way to the Quaker Bridge Mall in Lawrence where they were met by family and friends.
The ride's traditional mall celebration was cancelled this year, as was the victory lap around the mall. Instead, participants entered the mall wearing black armbands in honor of McCune.
They held a moment of silence and dedicated this year’s ride to McCune.
"It's a terrible tragedy," said rider Cheryl Curbishley, 44, of Lawrence. "We all feel so sad about it. All Anchor House riders stand together. We all love one another."
McCune will be missed, but perhaps most of all by children and teens he never knew.
“He was an extraordinary man,” Quinn said. “I’ve lost a friend, but Anchor House has lost a champion and kids have lost one of greatest advocates they could have.”
John Tredea contributed to this article.