BIKE MAN’S ‘GO-TO’ AIDE DIES IN CRASH ON TURN­PIKE

Joel So­lis was one of the kind­est men you’d ever meet, Jack Hairston says.

The Palm Beach Post - - FRONT PAGE - By Sonja Is­ger Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Joel So­lis, a 24-year-old from West Palm Beach, died this week­end in a car crash on Florida’s Turn­pike. A tire blew out on the Ford Ex­plorer he was in, and as the ve­hi­cle smashed into guardrails and spun with aban­don, So­lis was thrown from the cab and killed.

His death has plunged not only his fam­ily, but a com­mu­nity in­sti­tu­tion into mourn­ing. Jack the Bike Man, aka Jack Hairston, won­ders if his charity — the one So­lis adopted as a sec­ond home — will ever be the same.

Re­ally, So­lis and Jack the Bike Man came to­gether over blown tires — of the two-wheel va­ri­ety.

Back in the day, maybe 2003, when Hairston was work­ing off his front porch in North­wood with an in­ven­tory of bikes for do­na­tion in the back, Hairston put to­gether enough money for his first Christ­mas party giveaway. He’s pretty sure So­lis, not even 10 yet, was one of the re­cip­i­ents. He’d known the kid since Hairston rented a home to Joel’s fam­ily.

Punc­tured tires kept the boy com­ing back.

“He had a lot of flat tires, and wasn’t rid­ing his bike, and I said, ‘Let’s fix them,’ “Hairston re­called Sun­day, a day af­ter the crash. “I taught him how to fix them and gave him in­ner tubes and a pump and told him to help other kids in the neigh­bor­hood.” So­lis was a nat­u­ral. By high school, So­lis came to the shop to earn the vol­un­teer hours he needed for grad­u­a­tion. Hairston is cer­tain the day So­lis grad­u­ated from Palm Beach Lakes High, he hired him full-time. That was 2012.

“He’s re­ally been my go-to per­son in the shop. I could ask ev­ery­one to do some­thing and it wouldn’t get done. If I asked Joel, he’d get it done,” Hairston said.

Go­ing to the air­port and don’t want to pay to park? So­lis would give you a ride.

So­lis be­came a big brother of sorts to an­other young man — and took that kid to the gym every day be­fore work, Hairston said.

And when So­lis’ un­cle was mur­dered about a year ago, So­lis moved over there to help the man’s wife and kids, Hairston said.

So­lis had been up in Cen­tral Florida, though Hairston’s not ex­actly cer­tain where, and was headed back south on the turn­pike with two oth­ers Satur­day. He was due to work that day and texted his young pro­tege ask­ing that some­one give Hairston a heads-up that he was still en route, Hairston said.

So­lis risked life and limb daily, some might say, rid­ing his bike from 41st Street to Hairston’s shop, now lo­cated just north of Belvedere Road near Dixie High­way. “He’s been knocked off his bike many times,” Hairston said.

But five min­utes af­ter tex­ting that he was headed down the high­way, run­ning late for work, So­lis was dead, Hairston said.

The three were south­bound in In­dian River County just af­ter 10 a.m. when the tire blew out. The driver, who was wear­ing his seat­belt, sub­se­quently lost con­trol of the car, ac­cord­ing to the Florida High­way Pa­trol re­port. He suf­fered mi­nor in­juries. An­other pas­sen­ger, who was not belted in, es­caped without in­jury. Ac­cord­ing to the re­port, the crash was not al­co­hol-re­lated and “The cause of the crash re­mains un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion.”

So­lis is sur­vived by fam­ily, in­clud­ing his mother and three sis­ters, Hairston said. The bike shop is col­lect­ing money to help pay for ser­vices, what’s left over will go to So­lis’ mother, he said.

“He was just one of the kind­est peo­ple you’d ever, ever meet in your life. I would’ve pro­tected him to the death,” Hairston said. “He was such a damn good kid, — par­don my French. He’s a tremen­dous loss to so many peo­ple.”

CON­TRIB­UTED

Joel So­lis works at Jack the Bike Man’s bi­cy­cle shop. So­lis is sur­vived by fam­ily, in­clud­ing his mother and three sis­ters,

CON­TRIB­UTED BY JACK HAIRSTON

Joel So­lis (clock­wise from top); So­lis’ ap­pren­tice, Loamni Bravo; bike tech­ni­cian Ilia Evans; com­pany founder and Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor Jack Hairston; Martin; and shop man­ager An­thony Hard­wick.

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