Happy Father's Day — Tony Wolk

by Katy on June 15, 2008 · 6 comments

I take pleasure in introducing you, “The Non-Consumer Advocate” readers to my father, Tony Wolk.

My father was raised in a wealthy family with an upstairs maid, downstairs maid, laundress, cook, nanny and the manicurist who came to the house. A shiny new Cadillac graced the driveway every year. Nevertheless, my father chose to lead a different life. 

My father, A.K.A. “Dr. Wolk,” is 73 years old and still works full-time as an English Professor. What’s amazing is not that he is still choosing to work, but rather his mode of transportation.

My father is a cyclist. He is the original bicycle commuter, and has pedaled his 10.4 mile route to-Portland State University-and-back since 1969. He estimates he’s cycled 55,000 miles through the years. He avoids busy streets as much as possible, and has never been hit by a car.

Does my father ride a tricked-out titanium bike with fancy all-weather panniers? Does he squeeze his 73-year-old physique into skin tight lycra? Thank. God. No.

My father rides the bike he bought in 1969 for $70 – A shiny, red 3-speed Robin Hood. This bicycle is a 100 year old design that’s essentially never changed. So when the bike needs a repair, it’s no big deal to get replacement parts. And because it’s not exactly a cool looking ride, it’s never been stolen.

His storage system is a baby’s bike seat. He realized when my sister was born in 1983 that just about anything can be bungee-corded onto it. Wrap it in a thick plastic bag and voila – it’s a waterproof system.

The cycling attire is regular old shorts, worn year ’round because “legs are easier to dry than pants.” A cycling rain jacket completes the ensemble. Birkenstocks with socks are a must. 

Being a cyclist is very much a part of my father’s persona. He once talked a woman out of jumping off a bridge during a commute. One of his favorite stories to tell, is how a driver once rolled her window down just so she could yell, “Bearded Weirdo” at him. He likes this story a lot.

So happy Father’s Day, Tony Wolk! May your sweaty helmet-head greet me for many years to come.

-Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

And a note to all my “The Non-Consumer Advocate” readers: It is not necessary to have a $1000 bike with $150 panniers. Just ask yourself, “What would Tony Wolk do?”

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Julie June 15, 2008 at 10:28 pm

What a wonderful story. Mr. Wolk is a good role model for all of us. Would that be little Katy in the photo?


Tony Wolk June 19, 2008 at 2:44 pm

Kate, I’m blown away, or further on. I hope you’ll get to see that sweaty head after many more rides.

Odd, there was a story in the morning paper today (Thursday) about the woman who got a citizen’s award from the police for saving a woman from jumping off the Morrison Bridge recently. Her story sure brought mine to mind. She had a harder job, having to get out of her car, leaving it there on the bridge with the emergency flashers going, instead of just circling around it like the other drivers. With a bicycle it was so simple and direct. What was ghastly and weird was the spandexed cyclist who passed me as I was on my way up to the bridge, saying, “There’s a woman in crisis up on the bridge,” and then he zipped away. I wonder what he thought of himself later on.

In case anyone else asks, Yes, that’s little Katy in the picture.

Thanks again and again, Kate,



daniel gustav anderson April 25, 2013 at 6:47 am

I am proud to say I took two graduate-level writing courses from Tony Wolk in the late 1990s. Tony is one of the coolest, kindest people I have met in academia before or since (and I am still at it). He gave good criticism well. He knitted during meetings. He rode his bike everywhere. He was extraordinarily generous with his time and energy, just a very warm and caring soul, with the kind of intellect that stimulates and provokes new thinking in others. I have modeled some aspects of my teaching practice on his, particularly in meeting with students individually; that may sum up the positive impact Tony made on me.

Daniel Gustav Anderson
George Mason University


Katy April 25, 2013 at 7:19 am

I have just one correction for you. My father doesn’t knit, he needlepoints. 🙂

And thank you so much for sharing this, I had the privilege of taking a few classes from my father back in the eighties and nineties and I agree 100% with your impression of him. My older son will take an English class next year that’s in conjunction with Portland State University, and my dad is the overseeing professor. Although he’s almost 78 years old, he’s still teaching full time with no plans whatsoever to retire.

It sounds like your students are lucky to have you as well.



Laura's Last Ditch--Vintage Kitchenwares April 25, 2013 at 7:51 am

What a wonderful tribute to your dad! I LOVE the “bearded weirdo” comment. What a badge of honor!


AnnW April 25, 2013 at 9:16 am

Katy, I was wondering how you got to Antioch! This post answers everything. Did you take your nursing degree there? You are one lucky lady. Two great parents. Ann


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