To say this has been a hard week is an understatement. On Saturday I learned of the death of a dear coach, Red Simmons, and just two days later on Monday, the beloved journalist Randy Starkman had passed away. Both of these individuals were important to me and both of their deaths were of a great surprise.
While Randy Starkman wasn’t just a journalist, he was known as a friend first, to most Canadian athletes. He genuinely cared about us; and cared about sports in Canada, and the betterment of man kind! He took a special interest in amateur sports and you could always follow along on his Olympics Blog to catch the latest story in the world of sport. His stories were written with compassion and excitement. And while he told our stories he also built connections between athletes. where there was once none. Throughout my career Randy has interviewed me for various stories, but none was as memorable as when he interviewed me last October for the Enmbridge CN Tower Stairclimb. We spent the morning discussing the significance of the climb raising money for United Way, and the sheer importance of social responsibility. This story was off the beaten trail of performance… just about a bunch of athletes getting involved in the community, and he was really interested. I also got a chance to learn about the various charities he was passionate about and see a side to him I hadn’t been aware of. There we sat on a bench in front of the CN Tower, chatting for sometime – long after the interview had ended – upon the importance of social responsibility, the power of sports and life in general. It was a cold day, with the the wind blowing pretty strong, but the conversation was so warm, that it didn’t matter. As we shared a walk to the Royal York Hotel for 2011 Achievement Awards Presentation Luncheon for Sports Media Canada, I found myself feeling grateful for the likes of Randy. Wishing more media personnels were like him. It was him, I had in mind when I wrote a blog titled “Ode to Sports Media,” later that day. And as I look onto London 2012, his passing feels like a void that will not be replaced. I miss him already.
Red Simmons was the founder of the Women’s Track & Field team at the University of Michigan, and had long retired when I began competing in the incredible Maize and Blue. But, even though he had retired and passed on the head coach position to my coach James Henry, he was ever so present. In fact, he was the second person I met on my recruiting trip to the University of Michigan. Competing as a master, Red had finished a shot put workout when he walked over to enthusiastically greet me. Through him, I saw the Michigan Difference and wanted to be a part of this magnificient institution. He would continue to be an ever present force during my time as undergraduate and even now as I continued to train as a professional track & field athlete. A constant cheerleader and supporter. He has been my anthem for healthy living. You see Red may have been 102 years old when he passed away this weekend, but he epitomized the definition of spry. He was a quick pace walker, getting from point A to B and FIT! Certainly not “old” in his action by the standard you and I understand. In fact, he was known to drive to the old age home to visit the elderly – most of whom were younger than him. He was a testament to the kind of life a healthy lifestyle offered. Speaking to him just in January I was sure he’d be around for another year or so…
Both the passing of Randy and Red, reminds me that tomorrow is never guaranteed and that we should each make the most of what today has to offer. And also, never put off telling someone how much they really mean to you, when you can. Don’t wait for a eulogy. While I am grieving now, I do take solace in knowing I am better for have known both Randy and Red. There are beautiful and amazing people in the world, and how fortunate have I been to know these two individuals.
Love you lots Red & Randy!