Thursday, February 06, 2014
NORTHAMPTON — Friends and family of the 35-year-old man who was found dead Saturday in the woods on the Smith College campus recalled Kyle W. Amidon as a smiling, outgoing man who loved his 6-year-old daughter and soared on his BMX bike off jumps that he had built. Bicycle motocross was his passion and he was nationally known as a trail rider.
But he also struggled with drug addiction and was homeless for at least a few months before his death. His longtime companion said he had been in and out of treatment centers for two months but could not find a bed at a long-term facility.
“He is a beautiful soul and an amazing person who got very sick,” said the woman, who asked not to be named because of concern about how the publicity would affect her family. “He tried very hard to beat this. He never stopped trying.”
John Herrick, 33, a friend of Amidon’s since 2001, called the news of his death “crushing.” He said his family and friends will forever miss Amidon’s frequent smile, friendly demeanor and positive attitude.
“He had a lot of hardship and hard times, but he always had a smile on his face. He was always there for anyone and for his friends,” said Herrick, who lives in New Hampshire.
Herrick said Amidon felt most at home in the woods, building trails. At various times when Amidon had found himself without a home, he would camp in the woods he loved so much, Herrick recalled. “It was just the feeling of being free in the woods,” he said.
Amidon’s body was found in a wooded area off Paradise Road about 1:30 p.m. Saturday, according to the Northwestern district attorney’s office. Mary Carey, a spokeswoman for the district attorney, said the death did not appear suspicious but investigators would not speculate on a cause. Final autopsy results from the medical examiner’s office will not be available for several weeks, Carey said.
Amidon’s companion also said investigators do not know for sure what caused his death. But she believes he fell into a ravine in the woods and likely died from exposure. She said the reason for his fall is still unknown. The temperatures early Saturday fell to a low of 30 degrees, according to National Weather Service data.
Amidon told a Gazette reporter in January that he had been staying at the Interfaith Emergency Shelter on Center Street in Northampton or with friends while he was trying to find a job and working to stay sober.
Susan Stubbs, executive director of ServiceNet in Northampton which runs the shelter, said staff there always try to make sure that people who stay there get the help they need with substance abuse, including referrals to treatment centers.
“We do our best and get them a bed if we can” at a treatment center, she said Tuesday. “But if they’re full, they’re full.”
BMX at an early age
Amidon grew up in Templeton with his mother, father and three sisters, according to an email from his parents, Ronald and Rena Amidon. As early as age 5, Kyle started formally racing BMX bikes, training with the Templeton bicycle motocross team.
“Kyle raced at many tracks in towns all over the Northeastern states,” his parents wrote.
He graduated in 1996 from Narragansett Regional High School in Templeton. He worked many different jobs over the years, mostly on residential construction projects around the state, his parents said.
His daughter, Maisy Grace Amidon, 6, lives with her mother in Winthrop. “Kyle & Maisy spent many hours playing, hiking outdoors, and enjoyed exploring nature,” his parents wrote.
Herrick said Amidon talked about his daughter a lot, recounting outings such as apple picking. When he could see her on Sundays, they went to church together, Herrick said.
“Kyle used to tell me how awesome it was to bring her to church and see her face, because Maisy loves going to church, too,” he said. “Kyle was just awesome with kids.”
Amidon’s love for children was also evident in his willingness to mentor youngsters getting into the sport that was his passion — bicycle motocross trail riding.
The sport involves riding BMX bikes on trails and jumps that are built by hand in the woods. Starting in 2001, Herrick and Amidon would find secluded spots in the woods and work for months or even years with shovels to build and maintain giant dirt jumps. Some of the trail systems Amidon helped to design and create are in Dover, N.H., Providence, R.I., Boston and elsewhere in Massachusetts, including some in Northampton and Florence, according to his parents.
Herrick said BMX riders from as far away as Texas, Florida and California heard about his “trail spots” and came to ride them.
“It was art, the stuff he built with a shovel,” Herrick said. “He was so dedicated to it. He would be the first one out there digging most days.”
His parents and Herrick agreed that he had a knack for mentoring children who were learning to ride BMX at the trail spots. “Kyle always had time to instruct younger riders in various techniques and stressed safety to them,” his parents wrote.
“He encouraged and motivated everyone,” Herrick said.
He would fearlessly ride the biggest jumps and always invited anyone, even strangers from the local skate park, to come try them, Herrick added.
“He would invite anybody (to the trails), he didn’t care if the jumps got messed up,” Herrick said. “He just wanted to get people together and ride. He wanted everybody to enjoy what he had created. He wanted to share himself.”
Tony Long, a BMX rider who runs the BMX website TablesandFables.com, said he and Amidon were friends but had lost touch over the last year. He said in an email that Amidon was nationally known as a trail rider.
“He was very respected and extremely passionate about the dirt aspect of BMX,” Long said.
Amidon’s parents said they and his friends will establish a memorial fund to help his daughter. “Kyle will be sadly missed by his family and friends,” they wrote.
Rebecca Everett can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.