As the world remembered the one-year anniversary of local BMX rider Dave Mirra’s death yesterday, Greenville celebrated the life of a man who inspired positive change for both the city and its residents.
On an average afternoon, anyone could visit Jaycee Skatepark in Greenville and see a community like no other. People of all ages gather at the park in hopes of forgetting about their lives for a while; but without Mirra, this sanctuary would not be what it is today.
Mirra moved to Greenville in the early 1990s, bringing with him a strong interest in action sports and a unique vision for the small town. With the help of his brother, Mirra set out to make Jaycee skatepark a place where anyone would want to practice. He turned Greenville into the BMX hub for people looking to train professionally and the home of a legend.
While most people were only familiar with Mirra the icon, some Greenville locals were fortunate enough to get to know the man behind the celebrity — the father, the husband and the friend.
Brian Lee, the owner of Lee House Art Studio and Custom Tattoo in Greenville, was a close friend of Mirra. Lee said he first met Mirra as a client at his tattoo shop, where he helped design merchandise for Mirra, including DC shoes, shirts, as well as the cover for his video game. Lee said for him, his personal relationship was more important than any professional relationship the two had.
“Beyond that, as a friend, he was also the same guy that when I came to see him he was like ‘Why haven’t we had sushi lately?’” said Lee. “I’ve never not admired the iconicness of his career, but 20 years later the friendship is the thing I cherish the most.”
As the anniversary of Mirra’s death was approaching, Lee said he got the idea to build a memorial in Mirra’s honor at Jaycee Park. Partnering with Tiebreakers Sports Bar and Grill, Lee put on a benefit concert and auction last Saturday night to raise the money to build the memorial.
The benefit featured music from Miss Nothing and Bryan Mayer and a variety of items for auction, including a Tony Hawk skateboard, a Travis Pastrana jersey, a Ryan Nyquist helmet, Connor Fields Olympic BMX jersey, VIP passes to X Games and many more. Out of the money raised from this event, 100 percent of all the proceeds is going towards the memorial for Mirra.
Lee said he wants the memorial to serve as a reminder of the person Mirra was not only for people who knew him, but also for people who were not familiar with his background.
“If someone who has never heard of him questions it (the memorial), they can look into it and find out what he was to this town, this community and to the world,” said Lee. “If you were his friend, you were family. That is not going away to anyone who lives here for a very long time.”
Mirra was an icon to people all over the world for his accomplishments as a pro-BMX rider. For most people daring to do the impossible seems just that — impossible — but for him it was simply a part of his profession. Mirra held the record for the most X Games medals until 2013 with a total of 24 and was later inducted into the BMX Hall of Fame.
East Carolina University student Jacob Spurrier, a visitor of Jaycee skatepark, said Mirra’s story serves as a reminder to him and other youth of what they can do if they push themselves.
“(For) me and everyone else here, it definitely kind of inspires you,” said Spurrier. “Anytime you have hometown people become famous, you realize that it can be everyone’s dream, and it can be accomplished.”
Spurrier said he goes to Jaycee at least three times a week and is grateful he has this place to not only practice, but to also meet other people in the community who share this common interest.
“It’s basically a big family,” said Spurrier.
Another ECU student and local skater said the park was a vital addition to the city, and said he is glad Mirra took the initiative to get it built.
“I think it’s a great cause, and it’s keeping a lot of kids active,” said Jacob Lederer. “It’s not just older kids out here skateboarding, there’s a lot of the younger crowd.”
For one local BMXer, this relationship consisted of Mirra acting as a mentor for his own career. Marty Walsh said whenever he would ride with Mirra either at his warehouse or the skatepark, Mirra would always get him to step outside of his comfort zone and push him for the better.
“There were tricks and stuff like that, jumps that I would never have done without a little bit of encouragement from him,” said Walsh. “He is an awesome, awesome guy. Every time I’ve ever been around him he is encouraging on the bike, fun to be around off the bike, and he’s gonna be missed.”
Lee said Mirra’s love for Greenville showed in the fact he continued to stay in the town despite his celebrity status.
“Those of us who call this home, that relation and just seeing that, it made us all feel a part of something that was bigger,” said Lee. “If you came to Jaycee Skate Park, it was the exact same thing as going to Michael Jordan’s private basketball court and playing basketball with him.”