NANAIMO — John Petersen has survived everything the world could throw at him, including losing his family in a terrible house fire and the brutal murder of his sister, but he wasn't sure he could survive without his prized three-wheel bicycle.
It was stolen from outside a friends shop on Tuesday in the brief moment when he didn't have it locked up, the day before his 61st birthday.
On Thursday, however, he's happy as can be after his bike was found and returned that morning.
“I'm just hilarious, I'm so happy I got my bike back,” he told NanaimoNewsNOW outside Bouman Motors, where he watches over the lot as their night security officer.
The noticeable bike, donated to him only 10 months ago by the family who owns Bouman Motors, was found in the bushes by a Good Samaritan near Gregg Distributors on Boxwood Rd. on Thursday morning.
Within minutes of it being found, Petersen was back on his bike wheeling around the street with a big smile on his face.
He said it's the best late-birthday present he could have ever gotten.
The bike is more than just a fun way to get around for Petersen. He's suffered from a rare disease known as ankylosing spondylitis since he was young and was even supposed to be living in a wheelchair by the time he was 25.
“Now I'm 61 and I can't turn my neck to look at you,” he said. “I can barely look up or down. I have no movement in my neck at all. And now what's happening is my shoulders are growing in and I'm having a hard time even getting a fork in my mouth because it'll seize on me.”
Riding around on his bike, collecting bottles to deposit and working odd jobs for most of the businesses in the Bowen Rd. and East Wellington Rd. area, is how Petersen fills his day and keeps active. Without the bike, he was forced to walk around on Wednesday, which is something he loathes.
“I hate walking because when I walk, I bend over. The more I walk the more I bend over and then I have to stop because I'm in so much pain. It's no fun being 61.”
The world threw a lot at Petersen over those 61 years. Speaking to his friends before the bike was returned, NanaimoNewsNOW learned Petersen lost his family in a tragic house fire in the Interior several decades ago and he was homeless for some time, living in the bushes between two shopping carts with a tent over top.
In August 2011, his sister was fatally stabbed on Gabriola Island by her tenant, who was found not criminally responsible due to schizophrenia.
As if that wasn't enough for one person to have to deal with, he was also hit by a car near the car lot he looks after. Petersen received roughly $11,000 in the accident but gave much of it away to friends and family.
A hard-luck man with a heart of gold is how he was described by Nanaimo RCMP when the theft of Petersen's bike was first reported.
“He's had a lot of personal losses and has a great outlook on life,” RCMP Cst. Gary O'Brien told NanaimoNewsNOW.
With his bike returned, Petersen promised to never let it leave his sight for a second.
“I'm gonna lock it up every time I get off this puppy, I tell ya.”
On Twitter: @spencer_sterrit
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