Times Remembered – Vann, Simpkins and Wilde


Mary Jean Yon,


We run, so we often think we’re invincible. To run is to be fit which should be some sort of invisible shield to protect us from all sorts of health problems, right? Sadly, no…that’s not the case. And as we enter into the month of May, we find a wonderful opportunity to reflect upon one particular disease which has not spared our club members over the years; that disease being cancer, in all forms and intensities.

On May 11-12, Fran McLean and Joe Dexter, two cancer survivors in their own right, will be joined by Nadine Dexter as they raise the Gulf Winds Track Club (GWTC) flag at the American Cancer Society’s Relay For Life event at the Leon County Fairgrounds. A team of fifteen GWTC members will take turns walking around a track that at various times will feature luminaries to honor those lost to cancer as well as celebrate those who have battled the disease and lived to be “survivors.” Gulf Winds can claim members in both categories.

Did you ever know Kent Vann? If you did, you would remember a compassionate soul that knew practically every line spoken in the Andy Griffith show of days gone by. Kent could also eat a stack of pancakes taller than he was and he could run like the wind; before he ate the pancakes, that is. His passions were photography and motocross and life was at its best when the two came together.

How about Tim Simpkins? The residents of the City of Tallahassee knew him as that fellow that ran the streets of our town dressed as Superman who brought a smile to their faces. Avid racers knew Tim as a talented runner that would give his all to win a race. He won most of the awards that Gulf Winds had to offer: Runner of the Year, Michael Caldwell Advancement of the Sport and he was inducted into the Hall of Fame. In the last few weeks of his life, he earned perhaps his greatest recognition when the City of Tallahassee and Leon County Commissioners all banded together to issue a written proclamation declaring Tim to be a true Super Hero.

Ed Wilde was another gentle soul that touched the hearts of many in the club. Running was a big part of this ex-Marine’s life and he bonded with many a local as they tackled the various trails around the city. It’s fun to listen to people reminisce of his time as they recount this 6’3” big guy rag on them as they would shy away from patches of sand while playfully racing each other through the woods.

We lost Kent in 1996 to non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. Tim battled lung cancer and departed suddenly in 2001. And Ed slipped away from us after he learned stomach cancer had spread rapidly through his body in 1999. Did we cry for each of these fine folks? You bet we did. But then we picked up the pieces and set about trying to preserve their spirit in the best way they each deserve.

Kent’s memory lives on every year at Turkey Trot when elementary and middle school kids compete for the Kent Vann Partners in Excellence Award. The schools that produce the greatest numbers of participants and/or non-perishable food items receive cash awards.

Tim’s name blesses the annual Sickle Cell fun run mile in hopes that young runners will be inspired by what he once accomplished in their sport.

And every New Year’s Eve, a dedicated group of hard core runners gather to run a 5-mile race through the sands of the Apalachicola National Forest, no matter what the weather conditions are, as part of the Wilde Mountain Scramble.

We try not to forget those who have been taken from us by cancer. And yes, there are many more that I don’t have space to mention here and even more who are still among us battling the beast today. If you get a chance to go out to the fairgrounds on May 11, maybe you’ll hear some of these stories. Feel free to stop by. You can become one of the 3.5 million Americans that participate in 4800 of these community events nationwide. And feel free also to make a contribution, large or small, to help our team. The sales pressure is low but the gratitude for your contributions runs deep. Check out the team’s web page at http://www.acsevents.org/faf/search/searchTeamPart.asp?ievent=191932&team=1782104 and then make your plans to come out to the fairgrounds. See you there!