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Obituary: Dell Fields' Arctic adventure raised awareness of cancer

By Robert D. Dávila - bdavila@sacbee.com
Published 12:00 am PDT Thursday, September 25, 2008

Dell Fields, a Rocklin resident whose public battle with cancer took him on a 9,700-mile motorcycle ride to the Arctic Circle and back, has died at age 60.

He died Sept. 15 of colon cancer that spread to his lungs and liver, said his wife, Joan Lim.

Mr. Fields' 30-day round trip in 2007 to raise awareness of cancer screenings was chronicled in The Bee. He traveled with a friend, Doug Holck, on BMW motorcycles through Nevada, Idaho, Montana, Canada, Alaska and Oregon. He battled harsh weather, difficult terrain and "chemo fatigue" to fulfill a lifelong dream to visit the top of the world.

He reached the Arctic Circle on June 26, 2007. Along the way, he met with cancer survivors and families of cancer patients and raised money for the Sutter Cancer Center.

"This trip was about more than a motorcycle ride," Mr. Fields told The Bee upon his return home. "Our goal was to spread awareness about cancer and the things that cancer patients can do, and I guess we achieved it."

The adventure culminated a lifetime of milestones pursued with talent and determination by a former college fullback with a gentle personality.

Wendell Max Fields was born in 1948 in San Francisco and reared in a family of two boys in Burlingame. His father was a bakery salesman who became a real estate entrepreneur, and his mother was a homemaker.

Classically trained in piano, he soloed at age 14 with the San Francisco Youth Symphony. He played football and received a bachelor's degree in music at Brigham Young University. He earned a master's degree in teaching from the College of Notre Dame in Belmont and a doctorate in leadership and organizational behavior from the University of San Francisco.

He taught music at Burlingame Intermediate School before spending 22 years as a computer scientist at Hewlett-Packard. He traveled around the world managing a global team for HP and married Lim, a Singapore native, in 1999. He had a daughter from an earlier marriage that ended in divorce.

Mr. Fields quit his job after he was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer in 2002 and renewed childhood passions. He returned to the piano to perform in a fundraising recital for Sutter Roseville Medical Center. A 2003 tour of a BMW plant while on vacation in Germany awakened memories of his early years riding motorcycles.

He returned from the trip of a lifetime to the Arctic Circle to learn tumors in his body were growing again. He devoted much of his remaining time to sharing stories of people he met on the trip at his Web site and speaking out about cancer. He received visits and e-mails from many people whose lives he touched before dying at home in Rocklin.

"After his diagnosis, he lived without fear," his wife said. ""He showed us how to live, and he showed us how to die."


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