Family, friends remember renaissance man John Trexler
By Elisabeth Arriero
It's hard to pigeonhole John Trexler.
From unabashed pun master to avid cyclist, from craft-beer aficionado to versatile musician – Trexler had many passions.
Trexler, 61, died Saturday after crashing while riding his bicycle through rural Cabarrus County with his bicycle club, The Cannonballers. Although he was wearing a helmet, doctors said he suffered a traumatic brain injury.
""We've truly lost a treasure in this city,"" said friend Marie Arnold.
On Sunday, members of several Charlotte niche communities said Trexler's death leaves a large hole behind.
Don Boekelheide, Trexler's bandmate in the band The Charlotte Waites, a group that played Renaissance music, said Trexler shone during a recent trip to Colchester, England, where similar bands from all over the world met to perform.
""John was very popular while we were there,"" said Boekelheide, who also is a columnist for the Observer's community news section, University City News. ""He was absolutely in his element.""
He said Trexler owned more than 100 rare and antique instruments – all of which he played regularly.
The hurdy-gurdy, shawm, dulcian, wooden flute – Trexler could play them all.
""He always had some kind of obscure musical instrument with him,"" said Tom Hanchett, who knew Trexler through the Charlotte Folk Society. ""He was the kind of person who could pick up any tune and start playing along.""
Nearly two decades ago, Trexler became one of the first local musicians to be hired by the Carolina Renaissance Festival.
""John was a very talented musician that was always searching for the next opportunity to play his beautiful music,"" said Matt Siegel, the festival's marketing director. ""The news of his passing has hit hard around the nation to those in the Renaissance Festival community …""
The Plaza Midwood resident was equally well known and respected in the Charlotte area bicycling community.
Friends said Trexler would bike everywhere, from late-night parties to the grocery store.
""He was passionate about cycling,"" said Walter Richardson, president of the Cannonballers. ""And he was such a caring person that a lot of us saw him as family.""
Fellow Renaissance Festival musician Lee Arnold said that one of the most endearing qualities about Trexler was his ""innocent soul"" and ""child-like wonder.""
He was also quick with a joke, he said. ""We called him the Pun Master. He always had a witticism that was slightly quirky,"" said Arnold.
When The Charlotte Waites had a gig, Trexler frequently would tell a joke near the midpoint of the show, said Boekelheide.
""We have a little dancing puppet that accompanies our show. John would step forward and say, 'Well our puppet has finally decided to get married to his girlfriend, Annette. You see, he really wants to marionette.' Get it?"" he said.
Trexler formally worked with his family in the movie theater business, but the family sold the company several years ago. After that, he became a partner with an investment company.
""He didn't have to work day to day so he basically ended up being more of a full-time musician,"" said his brother, Brent Trexler.
Outside of bicycling and music, Trexler also enjoyed experimenting with new craft beers, singing in the choir at Covenant Presbyterian Church in Charlotte and watching movies.
A divorcee with no children, Trexler's life was nevertheless overflowing with love, said many friends.
""He had such a big heart. He touched so many people's lives that we didn't even know about,"" said his brother, Henry Trexler, who said he was surprised by the array of people who came to visit Trexler in the hospital on Saturday before he died.
Boekelheide said John Trexler set a good example to live by.
""He was an extraordinarily unselfish person who was absolutely passionate about the things he loved,"" said Boekelheide. ""That's a lesson for all of us because we never know when the end will come.""
Published in Charlotte Observer on June 12, 2012