Jason Turnage couldn’t wait until the Spreckels Park BMX track finally opened.
The Oakdale father of three had befriended Icee-Anderson’s 209-Snap BMX team creator Jon Anderson at a race in Modesto seven years ago. After joining the team Turnage got fully behind the movement to transform the unused storm retention basin into a BMX racer’s nirvana.
So it was only fitting that his friends came out en masse Thursday afternoon to pay tribute to a man they say exemplified not only the best characteristics of the sport, but life in general.
Turnage – who turned 39 earlier this month – lost his battle with cancer on March 14.
“He defined what we call NorCal Pull – he had the art of racing down and he was just a genuine and honest person that just made everybody around him smile,” said friend and fellow racer Jimmy Dean. “You knew what you had with him. He was honest and compassionate and he cared about his family.
“We’re all a little bit better because he was around us.”
The website of the American Bicycle Association – the governing body of the sport – had a brief announcement regarding his passing on Thursday.
Friends and teammates erected a makeshift memorial just outside of the chain-link entrance to the track Tuesday afternoon only to discover that it had been taken down Wednesday morning. Cathie Anderson salvaged what was left and added additional flowers to mark the spot, where she said, Turnage touched many lives with his infectious smile and his willingness to lend a hand to anybody that needed it.
“Jason was the kind of guy that you liked from the minute he said hello,” she said – holding back tears. “He had the biggest smile and was just the most genuine person. He had a heart for everything and he did everything with a passion – he fought his cancer with a passion.
“He’s truly going to be missed.”
A variety of plants were added to the side of the starting hill that faces the parking lot in his memory, and a small flower garden was planted in his honor just to the left of the starting gate.
And for members of the team, his work will live on.
Turnage, who owned Oakdale-based Apparel Graphics, completely overhauled the race jerseys worn by members of the Icee-Anderson’s 209-Snap team. He added detailed images like the Icee bear riding a BMX bike and proudly displaying Spreckels Park as the team’s home turf.
He is survived by his wife Rachel, sons Eli and Ethan and daughter Taylor.
“Jason always had a smile and he was an upbeat guy – you never heard anything negative out of him,” Jon Anderson said. “There are so many things you don’t think about until they happen and this is one of those things. He enjoyed life – he really did.
“He was one the guys that was here from Day 1 that wanted to see this track happen, and made the flag lap on the day that we dedicated the track. He’ll be missed.”