Members of the Tri-City BMX community held a candlelight vigil Friday night to pay tribute to the passing of a “BMX mom.”
Joan Elizabeth Parow, 44, of Niskayuna, died at her home Thursday after battling breast cancer for 10 years. Her husband, Kenneth Parow, is the president of Tri-City BMX, the not-for-profit group that operates the racetrack on Burdeck Street. Her sons Kenny and Andrew are nationally ranked amateur BMX bike riders.
The candlelight vigil featured members of the Tri-City BMX community giving speeches about Joan and the Parow family. Approximately 50 people attended the event.
The Parows began their association with BMX in 2008. Despite her illness Joan became a beloved fixture of the community.
“Joan was always the one with a smile on her face. She was out rooting for the kids. She was always so positive and looked for the good in everything,” said Claudia Nilsen, secretary for the Tri-City BMX.
Kenneth Parow attended the vigil and thanked the people who came to honor his wife.
“I know this is Easter weekend and you all have plans. Thank you from the bottom on my heart, for the boys. Joan planted a seed here at Tri-City BMX in the fall of 2008, not that long ago, and we’ve been growing together ever since,” he said. “I’ll be honest with you, if Joan hadn’t come out with us every Tuesday and Friday and love it more than we did, I don’t know that we would have kept coming.”
Michael Caldwell, 23, of Rotterdam, attended the vigil on crutches. He’s a pro-BMX rider and competes in races across the country for money. BMX is his sole source of income. He said he’s coached the Parow children during BMX camps and was inspired by their mother. He broke his left leg last week coming down wrong from a jump off a ramp on his bike. He said he wasn’t going to let the injury keep him from honoring Joan.
“The Parows brought me to a few national races, they helped me out. She would come and hang out and bring us lunch during the camps. She would do anything to help her kids ride their bicycles. She was a BMX mom,” he said.
Another BMX rider, Chuck Fieldson from Oneida in Madison County, said he’s close friends with the Parows and recently visited their home. He said he was very impressed when the family showed him the basement, which they refer to as the “Oprah room.”
In 2008 the Parows received about $100,000 worth of free renovations to their basement after the family attended the Oprah Winfrey show in Chicago. Renowned designer Nate Berkus, who was a guest on Winfrey’s show, offered to help the family after learning of Joan’s illness.
Fieldson said Joan Parow had the ability to inspire people and said she deserves credit for helping Tri-City BMX raise the approximately $20,000 needed to renovate the Burdeck Street track.
“She was the inspiration for everything that’s going on here now,” he said.
The renovated track will feature a new “pro-section” and should be unveiled to the public on the first race of the season April 29, weather permitting. Tri-City BMX conducts races twice a week from May to October.
Funeral services for Joan Parow will begin Monday at 8:15 a.m. at Griswold Funeral Home, 1867 State St., Schenectady, followed by a Mass of Christian Burial at 9 a.m. to be celebrated at St. Helen’s Church, 1803 Union St., Niskayuna. Interment will be in St. Joseph’s Cemetery, Schenectady.
The family will receive relatives and friends today from 4 until 8 p.m. at the funeral home. Memorial contributions may be made in her memory to contribute to the continued education of her children or to Tri-City BMX, 150 Burdeck St., Rotterdam, NY 12306.