NORTH PORT -- Charles Nelson Rodriguez
, known as "The Bike Man" because he
repaired and gave bicycles to the poor and homeless, died Nov. 20 at his
Rodriguez was born April 16, 1943, in Bronx, N.Y., and came to North Port from Warwick, N.Y., where he started a bike ministry at Warwick United Methodist Church and began repairing bicycles and giving them to poor migrant workers and other needy families.
Last year, he
told the Herald-Tribune
that when he
was growing up in New York his
family was too poor to buy a bicycle.
got a job in a bike shop and finally bought a fixed-wheel German racing bike with no brakes.
After retiring from Con Edison, Rodriguez started the bike ministry at Edgewater United Methodist Church in November 2002.
solicited bicycle donations throughout the state and reconditioned them, often with the help of a few homeless men and several Boy Scouts.
The North Port and Venice police departments and the Charlotte County Sheriff's Office
also have donated bicycles.
Bicycles, parts, helmets, tools and gift certificates for supplies have been donated by local churches and businesses, including Acme Bicycle Shop
in Punta Gorda and Louie's Bicycle Shop in North Port, which also provide special parts at wholesale prices.
Rodriguez served in the Army's First Tank Division from 1956 to 1959.
was a volunteer for the Suncoast Humane Society
, a former branch member of North Port Art Guild
, a former member of the North Port Neighborhood Watch
and chairman of Code Enforcement for North Port
Survivors include his wife of 44 years, Nilda V. (Diaz); children Lisa J. O'Connor of North Port, Aurora M. Boschker of Cary, N.C., Linda L. McKenna of Port Charlotte, Charles N. Jr.
of Florida, N.C.; and five grandchildren.