Breckenridge mourns loss of Eric Dube, beloved physical therapist set to help Team USA at Olympics
Making friends came easy to Eric Dube. When he met someone, he usually opted for a bear hug instead of handshake, and those who knew him best said it took just minutes to know he was special. Some called him the unofficial “mayor of Breckenridge,” a guy who could barely get around town because he bumped into so many people he knew.
On Monday, Dube’s friends and family were still mourning his unexpected death last Friday, caused by an undiagnosed heart condition during a mountain bike ride near Moab. He was 30 years old.
“People just wanted to be with him,” his mother Lisa said. “Eric made everybody feel important. He was just a magnet to people. He lit up the room.”
Originally from Massachusetts, Dube had lived in Breckenridge for six years, where he was a physical therapist for Howard Head Sports Medicine. Friends and co-workers said he was an outgoing, compassionate man who brought out the best in others.
“Once you met him, you were instant friends — there was no get-to-know-you phase,” said physical therapist Nate De Graaf, a colleague at Howard Head. “He was the best of us.”
Dube earned his doctor of physical therapy degree in 2011 at American International College in Springfield, Massachusetts, where he was valedictorian. He was hired out of school by Howard Head, an immediate standout.
“That was not only his job but his mission in life: to help these people and to help them get better,” his brother Ryan said. “And he just had those healing hands and he took physical therapy to a whole new level. He cared so much and he changed so many lives and got people back to doing what they love in the mountains.”
One of Dube’s roommates, Kellyn Glynn, recalled how he would come home at the end of the day excited about progress his patients had made, but still wishing he could do more for them.
“I’ve never met anybody like him who just looks at life differently, soaks everything up and constantly stops to look at the world and enjoy its beauty and feel gratitude for it,” she said. “He was just the most open, caring, considerate, kind person that I’ve ever known.”
Glynn said that Dube loved standing on the porch of the home he owned in the Wellington neighborhood, waving and saying hello to neighbors. The house was known for the themed dinner parties he hosted there. They sometimes drew as many as 30 guests.
“The tough thing with Eric was that he had so many friends in Breckenridge that he’d forget who to invite,” Ryan Dube said. “He almost needed to keep a list of all the people that he should ask because he just he knew so many people.”
The energy Dube brought to the clinic was contagious, co-workers said. Blake Stretton, who is studying to become a physical therapist and works at the Howard Head front desk in Breckenridge, was one of several who said Dube was like a brother to him.
“He truly pushed me to be the best person I could be and to really work hard in school,” Stretton said. “He told me, ‘If you want to pursue this, you have to give it everything.'”
Dube was set to travel to South Korea next year for the winter Olympics to serve as a physical therapist for Team USA. The day before he passed, he got an email confirming his final travel itinerary, friend and roommate Dave Mathes said.
Mathes, a paramedic, remembered occasionally helping Dube with health and fitness columns he wrote for the Summit Daily. In these pages, Dube advised readers on everything from ski season fitness to balance training.
If there was anything that could rival Dube’s passion for his profession, though, it was mountain biking. He was also an avid woodworker, using old bike components to make art for his friends.
“Eric was a very creative mind, always busy with his hands,” Lisa Dube said. “He was busy all the time, with his woodworking projects, with his bicycle. He’s been on his bike since he was 2 years old.”
Last Friday, Dube headed to Moab for a camping trip celebrating his friend Greg Sagan’s birthday. Arriving before most of the group, he and Sagan went for a ride on Captain Ahab trail.
“We were high-fiving, fist-bumping, hugging each other,” Sagan recalled. “Eric said to me, ‘Greg, we are so blessed and so fortunate to be so healthy and be able to do things that we love.'”
Dube said he felt a slight pain his chest, but he took a few minutes and seemed fine, Sagan recalled. He had no history of heart problems and no reason to think anything was wrong.
They kept riding, but about 20 minutes later, Sagan said he saw Dube fall off of his bike while climbing a hill. Sagan ran up to him, giving CPR for about an hour-and-a-half until a helicopter arrived. Officials in Utah told Dube’s parents that he died of a genetic heart condition.
“I gave it everything I had,” Sagan said. “I could have done CPR for three hours. … Unfortunately there’s nothing that could have been done.”
A memorial service for Dube is scheduled for Friday and Saturday in Chicopee, Massachusetts. His friends in Summit County said they are organizing an event in Breckenridge, as well.
“He went out on top,” Mathes said. “He died doing what he loved.”