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84-year-old Dean Davis was in top physical shape. The octogenarian had set a goal to make it to 100-years-old with continued great health and positive living. But the 2010 gold medalist at the USA Triathlon Games in Budapest, Germany would tragically not fulfill that dream after a driver on NC 28 accidentally struck and killed him as he was cycling and training Friday at 5p.m..
"All the young people wanted to be like Dean Davis," said his son Todd Davis. "He wasn't just an old man making it around the track, he was beating people much younger and having to compete against younger people cause he'd show and no one would be in his age group."
Dean had four sons and was just as proud of his children and family as he was to maintain his healthy lifestyle and great athletic form. At his remote cabin in Almond, Dean had created a trophy roomed filled with photos of his countless first place prizes and his achievements along with clippings from various newspapers profiling Dean through his decades of athletic wins, defying the stereotype of an aging American man. But there was much more to him than just being an athlete.
"He was my best friend and a wonderful person," said Adam Davis, his son. "He wasn't 84-years-old, he was 84-years-young." Adam knew his father loved to achieve and push his body to the limits with every goal he set.
"He actually got that athlete's high," said Adam. "He loved that feeling."
"Even at 60 and above you won't find many athletes his age who can do what he does," said Todd Davis.
Dean split his time between Ft. Myers, Florida and Almond, North Carolina. State Highway patrol investigators say Dean was riding along the side of the road outside of the slower lane in the narrow service lane but was struck accidentally by the driver, Terry Crisp Nelms, of Robbinsville.
"She feels very remorseful," said Trooper Mike McLeod who worked the collision. McLeod says they are still investigating the case but the four eyewitnesses on the road Friday, say Nelms wasn't speeding and was obeying all driving rules. McLeod said Nelms was not impaired. She told police she was not texting or on the phone when the collision occurred and so far records show that to to be the case. The speed limit on the road is 55 mph. North Carolina law states cyclists have the same rights on roadways like NC 28 as vehicular drivers, but there are more risks for cyclists due to their much slower speeds and lack of body protection other than a helmet. Davis was wearing a helmet at the time he was struck before a bridge on NC 28. He was training in hopes of becoming a two time gold medal champion for his age category at the World Triathlon Games in 2014.
But his son's and family members say they will forever be proud of the model father and man who gave others so much joy. Adam Davis said his father was an inspiration to anyone he met.
"He had the physical make-up of a man half his age," said Adam Davis. Dean inspired friends to lose weight and adopt healthier lifestyles. He also loved doing magic tricks for children and was often seen dressing up having a great time spreading his infectious joy for life to others.
Jeanette Marceu, who owns Nantahala Cabins says she and her husband wouldn't be in western North Carolina if it wasn't for meeting Dean years ago. They stayed with him at his cabin, and fell in love with the area.
He inspired them to purchase and open the cabins for guests. But Dean's sons will forever remember their father for much more than his first place wins at countless triathlons, sporting, and cycling events. They said he had one credo he lived by for life.
"If you put your mind to it," his son Adam Davis recalled him saying, "There isn't anything you can't do."
By Kimberly King
Follow Kimberly on Twitter @KimKingReports