Some people, in seeking a sense of normalcy in Downtown Logan during the COVID-19 pandemic, may have spotted one local icon who can’t be kept down: “Bicycle” Brent Carpenter.
Carpenter, 70, is well-known in Logan for his decades-long habit of riding around town, honking his bike horn and waving to everyone he sees. Residents may also note his collection of Beanie Babies, all clipped together in a massive ball he often carries with him.
Coronavirus precautions have changed one thing: You’re certain to see someone riding with Carpenter now, trying to ensure he follows social distancing recommendations like staying 6 feet away from others at all times or refraining from handing out free newspapers.
“Brent’s an integral part of all of our lives in our community,” said Dennis Wildman, Sunshine Terrace Foundation alliance director. “It’s important to see him. But I think it’s also important for them to know that he’s being watched after and protected.”
Wildman said he or a staff member at Terrace Grove Assisted Living, where Carpenter resides, will be riding with him during the pandemic. Despite precautions, they’re trying to get out two to three times a week.
Before becoming Carpenter’s wingman, Wildman said he’s known Bicycle Brent for a long time.
“I met Brent about over 30 years ago when I was playing football for the Aggies,” Wildman said. “So I’ve stayed engaged with him in different avenues of social work for most of my career.”
Carpenter came to live at Terrace Grove last year after he apparently injured himself in a fall and community crowdfunding raised tens of thousands of dollars to ensure his care. As Carpenter was touring the facility, he saw the bikes on the back of Wildman’s vehicle and they agreed to go on rides together once in a while, Wildman said.
Carpenter is usually capable of coming and going from Terrace Grove more or less as he pleases, and he soon chafed at virus precautions put in place at assisted living homes over the past few weeks.
Getting out for a bike ride during the pandemic “was spontaneous the first day because he just kind of needed a break,” Wildman said. “So I took him up. … And it was just so fun because his waving and his engaging with the community was probably even better for them than it was for Brent.”
An important message over Wildman’s career has been “There’s hope when you’re not alone.”
“So that message is so powerful for us to be seen out and about, that we can still find joy,” Wildman said. “We can still do things and still practice social isolation, but we can also still go out and do things within reason. With good judgment.”
Kelsie Balls was taking a break with her two young children on the park strip east of the Logan Latter-day Saint Temple in time to see Brent ride past on Friday afternoon.
“I told him he came at the perfect time for us to see someone smiling and happy, out doing what he loves to do,” Balls said, “and helped us feel a little normal for a minute.”
Even though her kids aren’t in K-12 schools yet and haven’t been too impacted by coronavirus closures, they still notice smaller disruptions in their day-to-day lives, like not going to the store as often. Balls appreciates the Bicycle Brent boost in her efforts to maintain a sense of normalcy.
“He’s just so happy and positive. And my favorite thing about him is that he just enjoys and loves life,” Balls said. “And I think we all could learn from him that way and try and be a little bit more like that.”
The assisted living home is trying to adapt to the restrictions and still deliver personalized care to their other residents, as well. Despite the extra precautions, Terrace Grove is trying to get staff out on walks with every resident who’s interested on every day that’s sunny. Visitors have been restricted to only those that are medically necessary, so staff members are also trying to keep residents in contact with family and friends with calls and letters as frequently as possible, according to Terrace Grove Administrator Karmon Reese.
Reese said she’s had residents tell her they appreciate the extra precautions.
“It’s a scary time and they’re very vulnerable,” Reese said. “And they know all our precautions that we’re taking, and I just hear gratefulness from our residents and the families.”
While Terrace Grove can’t admit volunteers for the time being, Reese said notes of encouragement and inspiration to residents are greatly appreciated and can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
“I’ve had so many people with an outpouring of kindness and compassion,” Reese said. “I love where we live.”