PEOPLETwice an Angel

Twice an Angel

Bikers’ beloved Cookie Lady passes away

To cyclists in 1976, Afton was a dot along the newly formed TransAmerica Bike Trail which traversed the Blue Ridge Mountains. Representing perhaps the most rigorous continuous climb on the trail that spans from Yorktown, Virginia to Reedsport, Oregon, the intersection of Routes 6 and 250 was a natural resting point. Thighs burning and looking for a grocery store, Bikecentennial adventure cyclists found a woman named June Curry.

“They would come in the evening and say ‘I just can’t make it any further. With no grocery store, nothing to eat, I’m hungry,’” June told me when I met her in 2005.

“I decided it was cheaper to feed them than it was to put them up!”

June’s father, who ran a shop just down the road from their house, put up a sign that read “Water for Bikers.” June went to the kitchen and began baking, earning her nickname “The Cookie Lady,” becoming a trail angel to weary cyclists. The Currys eventually cleared out space in an adjacent building and turned it into a crash pad.“

“I have hundreds of letters from people that have told me that this bike house was what gave them the initiative to go on,” June said.

Not bad for a woman who didn’t like to cook and couldn’t ride a bike.

June’s generosity grabbed the attention of CBS newsman Charles Kuralt. Though he was on vacation, his crew filmed June and her bikers for an On The Road segment. Exposure on national television introduced the Cookie Lady to a larger audience, inspiring more cyclists to tackle the rigorous Blue Ridge Mountain ascent, knowing that a nice lady would be nearby with a plate of cookies or snacks.

“I didn’t do this for publicity. I did it because I was getting a kick out of it,” June said.

And the feeling has been mutual. The walls of the Bike House are plastered with post cards, pictures, clippings, mementos and bike memorabilia. An autographed print of Kuralt adorns one of the walls.

“I have had more than 12,000 people stop here and I don’t think I can honestly say there’s been over a dozen I had just as soon they hadn’t stopped,” June said. “They’ve been wonderful and they really helped me through a bad time.”

Among the setbacks was a stroke June suffered in 2005 that paralyzed her left side. As she was recovering, she broke a wrist. Even so, with the help of an assistant, June made sure cyclists had a place to crash.

In 2008, members of the Richmond Area Bikers Association greeted The Cookie Lady on the porch of her brick house. With her left arm in a sling, June accepted a check from the group as well as a surprise proclamation, thanking her for three decades of hospitality.

“The bikers are so appreciative no matter what I do,” said a frail Cookie Lady that day, her voice quivering with emotion. “I’ve met so many wonderful people from all over the world. And since I never got to travel, which I wanted to do. I got to meet people from all 50 states and about 50 foreign countries.”

If it’s possible for someone to become twice an angel, it happened the afternoon of Monday, July 16, 2012. Passing away at the respectable age of 91, Afton lost its famous Cookie Lady. And even though June Curry is gone, cyclists can still swing by the bike house for cookies.

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