The times Paul Ziegler felt closest to his God was often riding atop a bicycle.
"'I'm going on a bike ride to be with God' was one of his last texts," said Debra Ziegler, Paul's mother.
So it was doing something he loved the most in this world that he departed it to be with God.
The sophomore from Elizabethtown, Pa., died in an accident on Sept. 23 when an oncoming vehicle crossed the centerline and struck him riding his bicycle.
On Oct. 20, about 200 people honored Paul during Homecoming weekend by putting their feet to the pedals themselves to surpass Paul's goal of cycling 2,000 miles this year. The event in his honor was called "Pedals for Paul" and involved people from the campus, the McPherson community and many others who care about Paul.
Paul had logged 800 at the time of the accident. During the event, 74 riders participated in a bicycle ride in and around McPherson, logging 1,692 miles, and even more were riding on stationary bicycles throughout Saturday in the college's small gym – pedaling to 1,783 miles. Others who were not able to attend went on rides of their own and sent in what they rode, bringing the grand total for the day to 3,475 miles.
When that was added to the 800 miles Paul had already ridden, his 2,000-mile goal was more than doubled: 4,275 miles.
Before the bicycle ride, Kyle Smith, senior, Milford, Kan., said the ride was a way to give back and honor Paul.
"It seems like something he would have really wanted to do," Smith said. "I would have wanted someone to do this for me."
Emily James, senior, Westminster, Colo., said Pedals for Paul showed there's a community who supports him and supports what he loved.
"What's a better way to spend this day than doing something that he loved in his memory?" James said.
Paul's personality and spirit drew many to honor him by riding for "Pedals for Paul." Respected, ready and willing, talented, passionate, ready with a smile, extraordinary and loving are just a few of the words those who knew him used to describe Paul.
"He was the best of us," said Dusty Kitchen, '12, director of student activities and resident director of Dotzour Hall. "Everything that was a good human being, he was."
Ziegler was deeply involved in the life of McPherson College as a member of the tennis team and through his work in the sports information office – where he worked with Kitchen and part of his work was to keep statistics for the Bulldogs.
Before the bikers started on road ride during Homecoming, Debra Ziegler told the riders that Paul wanted to ride his bicycle in support of world peace. She commented on her son's trademark grin and said, "Maybe world peace begins with a smile."