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Late father's stolen bike returned to Rochester family

Faced with a terminal brain cancer diagnosis, Karl Vielhaber had plans to pass on his bike to his son. Then days after his death, it was gone.

ROCHESTER, Minnesota — Karl Vielhaber loved being outside. Whether kayaking, hiking or biking, the only thing that could make it better was sharing it with his family. 

"As long as he was with me and our kids and we were outside, that was his most happy place he could be," said Jennifer Vielhaber, Karl's wife. 

So when Karl was diagnosed 16 months ago with a glioblastoma brain tumor, he didn't stop doing the things he loved. 

"His body stayed strong during that whole time," Jennifer recalled. 

It included one last ride on his mountain bike, just ten days before his death. On August 13, Karl died at the age of 52. 

"Doesn't matter how much you know that it's coming... it just tears you apart," Jennifer said. 

Credit: Vielhaber family
Karl Vielhaber, 10 days before he died.

One week after his death, Jennifer was in their garage in southwest Rochester's Southern Hills neighborhood when she noticed his bicycle was missing. 

"It was always there and then it wasn't," she said. 

Karl, Jennifer and their three kids would all bike together. David, their 15-year-old son, had outgrown his bike. Karl planned on passing the bike on to his son. It was his favorite possession. 

"He continued to work on it because he wanted it to be just in perfect shape for his son to have after he passed," she said. 

Jennifer guesses it was stolen out of their garage sometime between August 8-19. In the final days Karl was alive, many people were coming and going and the garage door was most likely left open at one point. 

Credit: Vielhaber family
Another picture showing Karl Vielhaber's stolen mountain bike.

"Realizing that the bike had been taken out of our home felt incredibly violating. I felt unsafe in my own home which is where I was trying to grieve and recover and help my children kind of put their life back together... and I felt unsafe and I felt like I wanted to tell Karl and talk to Karl and have him help me know what to do," Jennifer said. 

Jennifer ended up posting about the bike on Facebook. Since then, her post has been shared more than 2,000 times — including to groups that keep an eye out for stolen bikes. 

In Jennifer's Facebook post, she wrote, "My son lost his Dad a week ago. We can't bring back his father, but please help us bring back the bike."

On Aug. 26, the family says the bike was returned with "some significant damage," but Jennifer added that "the scars on the bike will remind us of the incredible help and kindness shown to my family this past week."

"This experience was a poignant reminder that kindness, love, and compassion surround us. Your collective concern allows me to feel less scared of navigating this world as a widow," Jennifer told KARE 11. "Thank you for helping get the bike back to my son."

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