He had two master’s degrees – one from Harvard – and a bookshelf crammed with titles such as Principles of General Thermodynamics. He was also a cyclist, spending long hours biking South Carolina’s country roads or hiking the backwoods; even at age 68, he was fit enough to tote a 40-pound rucksack.
On Sunday, Hooker was killed on one of his rides when the tandem bicycle he and his wife, Opal, were riding was hit by a vehicle on Banks Mill Road near Aiken.
His death comes almost a year after Pascal Limouzin, a French national working at Savannah River Site, suffered severe head injuries when he was hit by a car on Banks Mill Road. Monday marked the first anniversary of Dr. Matthew Burke’s death after a cycling wreck in October 2010 on Beech Island Avenue placed him in a coma for four months.
In an e-mailed statement, Randy DuTeau, of the cycling advocacy group Wheel Movement, said “we were deeply saddened to hear that another local cyclist has died as a result of being struck by a motorist. … These incidents underscore the importance of educating both motorists and cyclists on the rules of the road.”
The Hookers were making a left turn onto Lone Oak Drive when they were hit by a 2009 Ford driven by 23-year-old Whitney Duncan, of Aiken, according to Aiken County Coroner Tim Carlton.
South Carolina Highway Patrol is investigating the wreck. Attempts to reach Duncan on Monday by phone and Facebook were unsuccessful.
Opal Hooker said she and her husband took every precaution on the road. That included changing their route to stay out of traffic and cutting back on how often they went riding.
“People are just careless, or they think you don’t have the rights to ride on the road,” she said.
Gerald Hooker was a mechanical engineer by trade and applied the methodical, intentional mindset of his career to almost everything in life, she said. His three children, now grown, learned early in life not to go to dad with homework questions because he would cover the entire history of algebra before getting to the answer.
Though he enjoyed his solitude, Hooker took friends and family along with him on camping trips. His garage is dominated by two canoes and a kayak he painstakingly carved by hand – one of the many hobbies he mastered. Pictures from those trips show Hooker as a wiry man wearing a floppy hat, glasses and a thin, white beard. He didn’t smile much
His son, Craig Hooker, is getting married in May. His father was going to be the best man.
“He had a lot in life to look forward to,” Opal Hooker said.