Tragedy Strikes Our Inline Community – RIP Cheri Uelmen


 
Cheri Uelmen was a fixture at the front of the pack in local inline marathons, half marathons, and bike races. She was also a beloved school teacher and grandmother. The 58 year old suffered horrendous injuries in a bike race on Sunday and did not survive.

On the morning of September 10th the family posted the following message on caringbridge:

There are two different opportunities to help celebrate Cheri’s life. There is a visitation scheduled for 3 p.m. on Friday at the Lenmark Funeral Home on 1st Avenue in Eau Claire with a prayer service is at 6 p.m. (small time change for what TV posted last night) 

A Prayer Service is also scheduled for 4:30 p.m. on Monday (September 15) at Tower Ridge Ski Area (955S 82nd Ave. Eau Claire, Wis 54703). A celebration of life and memorial run/walk will follow. We encourage everyone to wear casual and workout attire. Tower Ridge was Cheri’s favorite stop of all time. We know that Monday she will be celebrating with us from the skies above!

We encourage everyone to bring photos and stories of Cheri to share. Also, we ask for as many of Cheri’s former students (young and old) to join us! And now we pray for all the people that will be benefiting from Cheri’s last gift: her organ’s and tissues.

Here are a couple of comments left at her caringbridge website:

By Justin Hertz (1st grade class of 1995-1996)
Dear Ms. Uelmen,

Thank you for all that you did for me as a little tike. You were the foundation of my education academically, but more importantly, you taught me how to be kind, how to strive to be my best, and how to appreciate the opportunities that I’m given in my life. You taught me how to value relationships, and love those around me. And I can’t thank you enough for that. You are an inspiration, you are a role model, and you are an amazing person. Thank you for your wonderful, positive impact on my life and so many others. You’ve made the world such a better place to live and have taught many other to do the same, and I am forever grateful for having the opportunity to have shared a part of your life’s journey with you.

With love and gratitude,
-Justin Hertz

By Emi Uelmen
Tomorrow Cheri has the opportunity to help 72 people. Yes, you read that right 72 people!

Because Cheri is in such amazing shape and was so healthy EVERY ORGAN and lots of tissue in her body is going to be able to help someone else.

It is so hard and so sad for us to think about letting Cheri go but to know that through this she will be helping so many people allows us to know that Cheri will definitely be living on. We are pretty sure whoever gets her lungs will become a dynamite cross country skiier and whoever gets her heart will be the same loving and caring person that she was.

Right now, it looks like a Memorial Service will be held on Monday September 15th in Cheri’s honor. More information on that will come tomorrow!

Below is Eau Claire media coverage of the bike accident.

WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports
 

Eau Claire County (WQOW) – A sad update to pass along, as WQOW News 18 has learned that the woman injured in a bike race on Sunday will not survive her injuries.

Cheri Uelmen, 58, of Eau Claire, suffered serious injuries during the bike race at the Cleghorn Harvest Festival on Sunday. Cheri’s daughter-in-law, Emi, wrote the following on her Caring Bridge page Monday:

I am going to start by talking about Saturday. We got to spend the whole day with Cheri in Madison. She started the morning eating breakfast with Brian and Rian’s family and then joined our extended family for the IronKID Race around the capital in Madison. Throughout the years, Cheri was able to run several races with my older two Peyton and Greyson. This morning she decided to run with one of my youngest Reed. You should have seen their faces when they came around the corner. The biggest smiles in the world.

From there we headed to the Madison Zoo for Brady’s 4th bday party. While we were parking we got a call from Cheri saying she has a front row parking stop saved for us. Jeff wasn’t sure how she was going to save it as there was a Badger game going on too but sure enough she stood right in the middle of the spot and told everyone (lots of angry people) she was saving it for her son! I can only imagine the looks she got! Cheri then spend the morning at the zoo with all 6 of her grand kids!! Boy did she have a blast.

While at the zoo, Cheri did mention on how she was nervous for her pack bike race tomorrow because she doesn’t like to bike in a pack. My 10 year old asked her “Then why do it Grandma, or why not just stay in the back at the start?” Cheri looked at her with a huge smile and goes “Peyton, you and I are both Uelmen’s and We are competitive!” My very competitive daughter looked at her with a smile and goes “yes, we are!”

From there we headed back to Brian and Rian where she got to spend more time with her 6 grand kids watching them scooter, play at the park and do flips! Sounds like the perfect day for Cheri, don’t you think?!

Fast forward to Sunday morning where Cheri was doing what she loved and was born to do! Helping support a local race she was taking off with so many of her dearest and nearest friends on a 25 mile bike race. Unfortunately 1.5 miles into the race, someone crashes in front of her and she was not able to get around the person, making her fly over her handlebars and she took the majority of the impact on her face.

After being airlifted to Mayo, Cheri went through several tests and the results are not good. Surrounded by close friends, her two sons and daughters in laws and lifelong partner Bob, we were told that Cheri broke her neck (C2) plus a lower crack too. We were holding out hope until the MRI results came back last night and showed Irreversible brain damage. Not truly understanding what that meant I asked and this could honestly not be any worse. Cheri is paralyzed and what’s left of her brain is dying.

Cheri’s mother is now on her way from Michigan to say goodbye to her daughter. Nothing any parent should ever have to do! We want to invite any of Cheri’s friends to visit with her one last time if they want. She is at Mayo Clinic in the Critical Care Unit. We have given the doctors the ok to all any of her friends in to see her!

**********************************************

Eau Claire County Sheriff’s Office (News Release) –
On Sunday, September 7, 2014 at 11:21 A.M. Eau Claire County Sheriff’s deputies assisted the Township Fire Department at the scene of a bicycle accident near the intersection of Hillview Road and Chickadee Road in the town of Pleasant Valley.

Two participants in a bicycle race being held as part of the Cleghorn Harvest Festival were injured. A 65 year old male patient, Daniel Woll, was treated and released at the scene. A 58-year-old female, Cheryl Uelmen, sustained serious head injuries and was transported by helicopter.

Both of the injured parties were wearing helmets.

Posted: Monday, September 8, 2014 11:54 pm

By Chuck Rupnow Leader-Telegram staff

Shock waves swept through Eau Claire on Monday as people learned Cheryl “Cheri” Uelmen, a veteran teacher and renowned athlete, was critically injured Sunday in a bicycle race.

Family members and friends said late Monday that Uelmen, 58, was paralyzed and not expected to survive.

“She (is) an inspiring, amazing woman — an excellent athlete and devoted mother and grandmother,” Barbara McKinley, a longtime friend, said about Uelmen. “She (is) an inspiration to anyone who likes to exercise. She (is) so full of dynamic energy.”

Uelman had been a devoted runner and in past years was a lead pack skier in the annual American Birkebeiner. In recent years she has concentrated on bike racing and excelled in-line skating competitions.

McKinley, of Chippewa Falls, recently rode in a bike race in Arcadia with Uelmen.

“I hesitated to do a bike race, but Cheri convinced me that it would be lots of fun,” McKinley said. “She (is) very influential that way, and she was right; it was fun.”

McKinley said it’s been difficult to see someone so strong and fit now succumbing to devastating injuries.

“I don’t think anyone would characterize Cheri as being fragile, but one is forced to the realization that our bodies are very breakable,” she said. “It’s sad that she’s not going to triumph over this; she’s just not going to be able to do it. No one can.

“We’re all filled with a sense of sadness at the loss we feel,” McKinley said. “It’s been a treasure knowing her. I’m proud to say she (is) my friend. She (is) a very good person with high character.”

Uelmen had retired as a teacher in the Eau Claire school district but was working part time this year at Sherman Elementary School.

“She was a great staff member, an amazing person,” principal Mandy Van Vleet said Monday, adding that staff and students “are doing the best they can when you hear of news like this.”

Uelmen was participating in a 21-mile bike race Sunday morning as part of Cleghorn Harvest Festival activities.

Eau Claire County deputies and the Township Fire Department were called at 11:21 a.m. to the scene of the bike crash near the intersection of Hillview and Chickadee roads in the town of Pleasant Valley.

Dan Woll, 65, of River Falls, former superintendent in the St. Croix Central and Menomonie school districts, was in the race. He saw Uelmen’s crash and had one of his own. They were the only two injured.

“I can’t get this woman out of my mind,” Woll said Monday. “I was behind Cheri when she flipped. Her bike went sideways, and that flipped me. I laid on the road while they tried to stabilize her. I’m laying next to this woman who’s dying, and I’m crying for her.”

Woll, who received two cracked ribs, a lung puncture and a broken finger, isn’t sure what caused Uelmen’s accident.

Woll, a veteran biker, said racers started slow but were picking up speed, 20 mph or more, about two miles into the event when the crash happened.

“If you race bikes, you are in crashes, but this is the most horrible thing I’d ever seen,” he said.

“I saw a sea of helmets in front of me and all of a sudden a sort of ripple in the pack. The next thing she’s up and over. She didn’t separate from her bike. The entire bike cartwheeled,” he recalled.

Uelmen received a serious head wound, broken neck and lower back injury. She is paralyzed and has irreversible brain damage, according to her CaringBridge website.

“I can’t emphasize enough that bike racing is dangerous,” Woll said. “I didn’t know her, but I could see she was a very strong rider. I just feel such extreme sorrow for her and her family.”

According to a CaringBridge post, Cheri will be an organ donor.

Rupnow can be reached at 715-830-5831, 800-236-7077 or chuck.rupnow@ecpc.com.

 

Race History:

Cheri was unbelievably active and a frequent participant in many sports. She was the winner of the Minnesota Half Marathon Duathlon just weeks ago. Note her incredible streak at the North Shore Inline Marathon with finishing times that rival elite male racers: 1:15, 1:17, and 1:18 in 2008, 2009, and 2012. She was also a beloved school teacher and grandmother. She was registered for this weeks North Shore Inline Marathon.

2013
Minnesota Half Marathon & 5K- View CHERI UELMEN 57 August 3rd 2013 MN 1:06:01
NorthShore Inline Marathon – Tunnel 10K- View Cheri Uelmen 57 September 14th 2013 MN 1:36:46
Carson Park Five and Ten- View Cheri Uelmen 58 October 26th 2013 WI 1:18:39
Festival Foods Turkey Trot- View Cheri Uelmen 58 November 28th 2013 WI 36:55

2012
Noquemanon Ski Marathon 2012- View Cheri Uelmen 55 January 28th 2012 MI 3:09:33
Apostle Islands Inline Marathon 2012- View Cheri Uelmen 56 June 16th 2012 WI 58:02
NorthShore Inline Marathon 2012- View Cheri Uelmen 56 September 15th 2012 MN 1:18:04

2011
MGH Noquemanon Ski Marathon 2011- View Cheri Uelmen 55 January 29th 2011 MI 3:12:55

2009
Noquemanon Ski Marathon 2009- View Cheri Uelmen 53 January 24th 2009 MI 3:25:58
Northshore Inline Marathon 2009- View Cheri Uelmen 50 September 19th 2009 MN 1:17:23

2008
Noquemanon Ski Marathon 2008- View Cheri Uelmen 52 January 26th 2008 MI 3:03:56
Northshore Inline Marathon – 2008- View CHERI UELMEN 50 September 13th 2008 MN 1:15:30

2007
Subaru Noquemanon Ski Marathon 2007- View Cheri Uelmen 51 January 27th 2007 MI 3:09:11

2006
Subaru Noquemanon Ski Marathon 2006- View Cheri Uelmen 50 January 28th 2006 MI 3:04:14
Mora Vasaloppet – 2006- View Cheri L Uelmen 50 February 12th 2006 MN 1:52:57
Northshore Inline Marathon 2006- View CHERI UELMEN 50 September 16th 2006 MN 1:32:26
Northshore Inline Marathon 2006- View CHERI UELMEN 50 September 16th 2006 MN 1:32:26

2005
Northshore Inline Marathon 2005- View Cheri Uelmen 45 September 17th 2005 MN 1:24:53

2004
Leader-Telegram Buckshot 5M For Special Olympics- View Uelmen Cheri 45 September 4th 2004 WI 07:36

2003
Brainerd Dispatch Online Inline Half Marathon- View Cheri Uelmen 47 June 14th 2003 MN 42:21
Northshore Inline Marathon- View CHERI UELMEN 46 September 13th 2003 MN 1:34:32

2002
American Birkebeiner- View Cheri L Uelmen 45 February 23rd 2002 WI 3:05:45
Northshore Inline Marathon- View CHERI L UELMEN 45 September 14th 2002 MN 1:30:04

2001
American Birkibeiner 2001- View Cheri L Uelmen 45 February 18th 2001 WI 3:38:33
Northshore Inline Marathon 2001- View CHERI L UELMEN 45 September 15th 2001 MN 1:31:56

1999
American Bikebeiner 1999- View Cheri L Uelmen 40 February 20th 1999 WI 2:57:36
Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon 1999- View CHERI L UELMEN 40 June 19th 1999 MN 1:35:14