By Michael Pineda
There are certain people that make a town a tight-knit community. Johnnie Ballard was one of those people.
Ballard, also known as the “Bike Man,” passed away Sept. 20 at the age of 72. His legacy, however, will continue on.
“Even in this time, it is a celebration of his life and his legacy,” his son David Ballard said. “We were talking today. The community has reached out on Yukon Happenings. We started getting messages from two gentlemen in Edmond that received bikes from my dad as kids and now they ride in marathons and things like that. They said it all started with the bikes my dad gave them. After 20 years, we have seen a lot of kids grow older and come back around.”
David explained that it was Johnnie’s work and faith that drove him. Johnnie grew up in an abusive home, the second of seven children, and was raised by a single mom. His stepfather would turn him to God and Johnnie’s experience drove him to make a difference in other people’s lives.
“He truly lived by the quote from his mother, ‘The best way to solve your problems is to focus on someone else’s,’” David said.
Johnnie was a veteran, entering the U.S. Army in 1967 and serving in both the army and Marine Corps. In 1972, Johnnie met and married his wife, Donna Marie Trimbur.
The couple moved to Oklahoma in 1985 seeking treatment for their eldest son, who suffered from spina bifida.
After moving to the Yukon area in 1991, Johnnie served as a volunteer children’s pastor at Jesus House in Oklahoma City. He also served as an advisor with the Yukon Police Explorers. Growing up, David remembered their home being a collection point for children and youth going through things.
David said Johnnie suffered a stroke in his mid-50s. As he was recovering, he began fixing the flat tires and fixing the bikes of neighborhood children. Before long, with the help of son Ben and his family, Johnnie began collecting new and used bicycles for the children that did not have one.
Before long, he was the “Bike Man.”
“This is where bikes for kids began and has operated for 20 years,” David said. “Along the way Johnnie would meet Jeff George with Fox 25 News, who was moved by the stories and began helping get information out to help gather donations for children in need.
“Without fail, for the last 20 years Johnnie has made sure that children received bikes for the Christmas bike giveaway. There have been years where bikes given reached into the hundreds. Outside of Christmas Drive, Johnnie was made aware of mission work in Africa and how a bike to children there would offer the children a way to travel further for school and activities. Johnnie followed his calling and began collecting bikes that would be shipped to Africa.”
Johnnie’s care and concern for people did not stop at a bike. David said he would take the time to visit with people and hear their story.
“If he said, ‘I will pray for you,’ he prayed right then with them, but he had a prayer sheet,” David said. “Everyday when he read his Bible he would go over those names. I’m talking hours, praying for people. He was just a consistent man that if he told you he would do something he would not stop until it was complete.”
Johnnie’s compassion for others was an example for others. David said if Johnnie thought he had wronged someone or upset them, he was quick to approach them.
Like Johnnie, David also served in the military – and basic training was more difficult than he thought it would be. He served in Afghanistan and was wounded. The memory of calling his parents remains fresh.
“He told me, ‘I’m glad to hear your voice. That means my prayers have been answered and God is looking after you because you are still talking,’” David said.
David also remembered the support he received from home throughout his life.
“Even if he didn’t understand what you were doing, he found some way to be proud of you for doing it and being encouraging,” he said.
In 2021, Johnnie was diagnosed with lung and brain cancer. He passed away at his home in Yukon, surrounded by family and loved ones. His wife Donna and he had five children and one adopted son, 10 grandchildren, two great grandchildren and three on the way.
A viewing will be from noon to 8 p.m., Sept. 27, with a celebration of his life at 10 a.m. Wednesday at Clear Springs Church at 921 N. Clear Springs Road in Mustang, with interment at Yukon Cemetery.
“Johnnie’s legacy will live on with his family, and bikes for kids will continue to serve the children of Oklahoma and as a memorial to a life well lived,” David said. “Johnnie’s love and life calling is embodied in all the lives he touched over the years – receiving messages out of state and local from children and families who had been blessed by his generosity over the years.”