Still Pedaling for Pan-Mass Challenge

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Bill Cantor, right, and his son, Arthur, at the 2002 PMC.
Bill Cantor, right, and his son, Arthur, at the 2002 PMC.

Special to the Journal

SWAMPSCOTT — Bill Cantor will participate in his 30th Pan-Mass Challenge on Saturday, August 3. The 89-year-old has been cycling since he was a teenager.

"I used to bike from Brookline out to Norumbega Park," said Cantor. "In those days I had just a three speed English bike, but now, of course, I have a 27-speed, fancy bike."

Cantor first learned about the Pan-Mass Challenge when he, Judge Sam Zoll, Av Hammer and Martie Marean, all members of the North Shore Cyclopaths, a biking club that Cantor helped found in 1974, were at a fish house near the Salem-Beverly Bridge.

"Four of us were resting there after a ride when Brenda White came along and asked if anybody would like a cold beer. Everyone had a beer but Judge Zoll," recalled Cantor. "She mentioned the PMC because she was an original rider in 1980. So at that point, we all decided we would ride."

That was back in 1984, when only about 400 riders participated. Today, the PMC has over 9,000 registered cyclists and volunteers. At 89, Cantor is the only one of the original four Cyclopaths that is still riding in the PMC.

The first 15 years that he participated in the challenge, Cantor completed the full 192 mile ride from Sturbridge to Provincetown. After open-heart surgery in 2004, Cantor rode approximately 80 miles. In the past few years, his pace has slowed down, but his enthusiasm for the challenge has remained high. This year, Cantor is training hard and plans to ride as far as he can.

"I usually ride every Saturday morning, and during the week I ride early in the morning. I ride around the (Marblehead) Neck two or three times," Cantor said, in regard to his training regime.

Cantor feels strongly about the PMC because 100 percent of the funds that participants raise go to Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (DFCI) to support cancer research and treatment. The PMC has raised $375,000,000 since its inception in 1980 — $37 million last year alone.

"I lost a son [Robert] to cancer in the early sixties, and that’s basically why I ride," said Cantor.

Cantor has also lost his sister-in-law and many friends to the disease. He has personally raised over $150,000 for DFCI.

Over the course of three decades, Cantor has ridden through all kinds of conditions.

"We have had heat over 90 degrees, and have ridden in that. We have ridden in rain," said Cantor. "The Cyclopaths have ridden in snow and ice."

Cantor was born in Philadelphia, grew up in Brookline, and now resides in Swampscott. He attended prep school at St. George’s in Newport, R.I., went to MIT for two years and then to Cornell for two years. He then entered into military service and ended up in Pearl Harbor, teaching electrical engineering at the Marine Corps Institute. After leaving the Marine Corps, Cantor worked in shoe manufacturing for many years.

Cantor and his wife, Barbara, have four children: Emily, who is also a Swampscott resident, Arthur, who lives in Needham, David of Salem, N.H., and Jeffrey of Monroe, Conn., as well as six grandchildren.

"I have had a lot of people tell me that I am their inspiration," said Cantor. "It’s nice to be the inspirer. As they say, it’s the journey that matters, and it has been a good one."

To donate to Bill Cantor’s ride, visit

Last modified on Monday, July 29, 2013 - 16:43

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Published in Community News


Bill Cantor, right, and his son, Arthur, at the 2002 PMC.

Bill Cantor, right, and his son, Arthur, at the 2002 PMC.


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