Jack Joseph Panek passed away suddenly on Dec. 15, 2019 at his home in Gunnison, Colo. Jack was born to Emil and Suzanne Panek on Sept. 30, 1953 in Cheyenne, Wyo. He graduated from George Washington High School in Denver in 1972 and Western State College in Gunnison in 1976. As an avid cyclist, skier, and lover of the outdoors, he adopted Gunnison as his hometown and became part-owner of the Tune Up Bike Shop.
In 1976 Jack co-founded the West Elk Road Club and began organizing cycling races in the Gunnison Valley. In 1986 he was a Race Director of the 1986 Munsingwear International Stage Race, which took place between Gunnison and Crested Butte and attracted Tour de France winners and Olympians.
As a competitor himself, Jack led the field as a Cat 2 in the 1980s. As his friends described him, Jack never showed weakness on the bike. His favorite tactic was to pass others on the hills with a burst of speed and a smile on his face, a sure way to crush the spirit of any opponent.
Later Jack returned to school to become a teacher, which freed up his summers to spend with his daughters. Jack’s daughters did their best (and often failed) to keep up with their dad. He taught reading and creative writing for many years at the Leadville Lake County Intermediate School and Aspen Community School. He then returned to his beloved Gunnison where he drove the school bus until retiring in 2017. Jack spent many long mornings at the Double Shot Cyclery chatting with friends, and expounding on the need for Gunnison to reduce its god da** speed limits.
Jack is survived by his daughters Erin Panek of Seattle, Wash., and Katie Panek of Visalia, Calif. They were truly the lights in his life. He is also survived by his siblings Teri Lorkowski of Fairbanks, Alaska and John Panek of Denver, Colo. Finally, Jack is survived by many lifelong friends and family throughout the state.
His hearty laugh, booming voice, enthusiasm for life, and kind spirit will be deeply missed by all who knew him. A celebration of life will be held for Jack on Saturday, Jan. 18 at 11 a.m. at the Fred R. Field Multi-Purpose Building in Gunnison, Colo. Please bring your favorite or most memorable story of Jack to share. In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation by check to the GHS Outdoor Education program.