Thanks For The Memories

Mary Jean Yon,

Our ability to remember is a fascinating thing to analyze. I can recall, with great clarity and fondness, all of my personal records in racing which happened many years ago. It seems so common for many of us to have events from long ago stored in our memory banks which seem quite secure. But on any given day, there’s no telling how much you can pull out of those banks or when your latest deposit was made. I recently worked registration at the GWTC 30K/15K and had a puzzling moment where I simply could not recall if Randy Hanna had handed me a $20 bill or not. And I’m referring to a time span of approximately ten seconds. To make matters worse, Randy didn’t know either so I made an executive decision and decided he must have given me the money! In other words, I faked it because Randy just didn’t seem like the kind of guy to try and cheat Gulf Winds out of $20! Don’t tell Jerry and Jackie McDaniel! As race directors, they might not agree with my thinking!

One person I know who never has to fake it is Bill McGuire. Talk about a guy with a memory! I’ve always marveled at how Bill can sing practically any song and not need help remembering the lyrics. He can also describe many a road race and track event, current or past, and tell you how the elites ran each split and essentially recreate the race for you. Maybe that’s what comes when you love things like music and running as much as Bill does.

That great memory became a wonderful way to honor his father with song and story. William J. McGuire Jr. died on January 12, 2009 at the good age of 88. He lived as every father should by showering love and affection on his children and sharing with them the things he loved doing. For our Bill, one special gift he received from his dad was running. Bill’s father figured out early on how to combine running with his college days at St. Francis College as well as with a distinguished career in the Marines during WW II. After the war, he honed his running to perfection by winning the A.A.U. Indoor National Championship 1000 yard run in 1947 in New York City’s Madison Square Garden. Our Bill has masterfully kept those memories alive.

At his funeral, the priest referred to Bill’s father as a “good Samaritan” and a “gentle man.” But I’m here to tell you, if you studied the many pictures of Bill McGuire Jr. that were posted in his honor at the funeral, you would see clearly that he left those traits at home when he stepped upon a track to race. The grit and determination that show on his face as he is photographed winning each race does not lead one to believe that he was a gentle man offering someone else the opportunity to go first across the finish line! And I’m guessing those of you that have raced against our own Bill McGuire have experienced that same grit and determination as his fast kick took him past you as the finish line drew near!

But alas, we all mellow with age and this too is true for the McGuire family. I believe mellowing helps us stay around a little bit longer so it is not a bad thing. We have a different set of memories in these mellow years but in some ways, they turn out to be the more powerful memories. Take for example the Turkey Trot races of 2005. You may recall the special moment when all the McGuire runners showed up and Bill Jr. and his devoted son walked the One-Mile Turkey Gobbler. It took a while for an 85 year old to do this which resulted in the entire field of 5/10/15K runners lined up waiting for those last few steps to be taken so their race could begin. Never one to miss an opportunity to spotlight a deserving soul, Race Director David Yon announced to the crowd, “Here comes the 1947 Indoor National Champ, Bill McGuire, Jr.!” As he looked down and focused on each step, trying hard to hurry up and get off the course, our hero uttered “Oh good night” in what I guess was a combination of modesty and exasperation!

In Bill McGuire Jr.’s obituary, it is suggested that contributions can be made to the Gulf Winds Track Club’s Chenoweth Fund. What a wonderful idea and a tremendous way to allow all of us to continue remembering those who gave us the talent that surrounds us today. The obituary also closes most poetically by saying. “Life’s work well done. Life’s race well run. Now comes rest.”

Good night, Bill McGuire Jr.! Thanks for the great memories.