Charles McCormick

September 11, 1962May 11, 2023
Obituary of Charles McCormick
Charles McCormick, age 60, of Washington, District of Columbia, passed away on Thursday, May 11, 2023. Charlie McCormick was a DC institution. For more than thirty years he ran the independent bike stores City Bikes. Awake, original and generous – Charlie McCormick was a one-of-a-kind. He lived the lives others dreamed. And, on contact, he made people just that little bit more happy. After graduating from Stonehill College in Massachusetts, and following the sudden death of his corporate lawyer father, the twenty-four-year old Charlie McCormick decided he wanted to live the life less traveled. He headed for Nicaragua with his twin sister, to work on building houses in the jungle. After six months, he returned to the States and planned to travel on a school bus. It was to be a great adventure. But then the vehicle broke down in DC and he did not have money for repairs. So Charlie became a motorbike messenger. Until his leg was broken in an accident. ‘It turned out to be a lucky break for the 26-year-old’, the Washington Post reported at the time. For it was now that Charlie discovered an old petrol station on the corner of Euclid and Champlain streets in Adams Morgan and had an idea: given the environmental dangers posed by the car industry, wouldn’t it be symbolic if he set up a bike shop here? It was 1987. Along with his friend Robin Stallings, Charlie built a new glass-fronted structure above the old gas station (Charlie was a world class problem-solver or, as his Twitter account declared, ‘"Expertise" mostly from Youtube videos’). They poured the concrete floors, painted the walls, purchased a handful of bikes and, using a small inheritance from Charlie’s father, opened the doors. With its focus on commuter bikes, repairs and friendly customer service, the business did well. So well that, after persuading a few family and friends to stump up the cash, Charlie purchased the building next door. When Ben and Jerry’s became a tenant, Charlie commissioned a local artist to paint a mural on the side of the building: two giant ice-cream licking cows pedalling on a bright red tandem. It became a community icon, and an effective marketing device. Selling bikes was not enough for Charlie, he got involved. When Rock Creek Park was threatened by a new apartment building, he tied himself to a tree and was arrested. Later he took park in efforts to save the woodland around Klingle Road, which was saved. When a local non-profit asked for help, he taught neighbourhood kids how to fix old bikes and fine-tune their new ones. He was also instrumental in the launch of the capital’s Bike To Work Day ride and was a board member of the Washington Area Bicycle Association. In 2008, Charlie’s wanderlust resurfaced and he set off on his 1970s BMW motorbike. The first week was not so auspicious. In Detroit he was hit by a car and the bike was totalled. Though he had broken ribs and a sore ankle he wouldn’t be stopped. He took on a new steed, a more up-to-date Beamer, and headed north, first through the icy passes of Alaska, then down Highway 1 on the West coast and on through Central and South America to the tip. As he went, he kept his friends and family informed with remarkable photographs and stories on social media. And all the while, from beaches, mountain tops, flea-infested boarding houses and wherever internet was available, Charlie kept running the business. An early digital nomad. Four years, five continents and sixty-five countries later, the journey ended after another accident, this time in Ethiopia. When Charlie returned, he pivoted, and transformed City Bikes into the premiere e-bikes business in Washington DC. Again, ahead of his time. While as a young man Charlie was not always in total control of his domestic affairs (a dead squirrel was once found under the sofa in his apartment) and enjoyed the most hedonistic of highs (in the bars on 18th Street, at Burning Man, in the taverns of Hawkley, Bamako, Buenos Aires and Dushanbe), in recent years he placed health and fitness at the centre of his life. He had a hunger for life and he didn’t want it to end. Charlie was born in Duxbury, Massachusetts on 11 September 1962. Died of natural causes on 11 May 2023, under the stars at a remote camping spot overlooking the Potomac River in Poolesville, Maryland. He is survived by his mother Marga Dieter and sisters Cam McCormick and Sam McCormick. Predeceased by father Robert F. McCormick. He will be sorely missed by his friends around the world. Thomas Harding Fond memories and expressions of sympathy may be shared at for the McCormick family.

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