Marathon Wally Finishes the Race

Wally, Jan 1998, courtesy of Marcia DuncanMy dad was an encouragement throughout my life. My first memory of that was as a six-year-old, as he cheered me on and celebrated the blue ribbon I won. Even though I was up against two kids who could hardly swim across the pool, you’d have thought I won the Olympic gold. And there were flute competitions and band concerts, and dance recitals and parades that I was in. Later on, it was jobs that I had, and presentations that I had done. Every time, my dad was there to cheer me on; he made me proud of what I did, no matter how insignificant.

For the last three years, my dad was in a wheelchair. During that time, I had taken up running. When I stated I could only run a few blocks. One summer, we ‘trained’ together for the half-marathon—Dad on his Rascal scooter following me around Park Ridge neighborhoods. He always made me want to get better and stronger and to use my God-given abilities to serve others and enjoy life to the fullest. Of course, he was there on race day to cheer me across the finish line, but the daily encouragement was what he gave most.

My dad knew how to make anyone in a room feel important and special. He loved to go to Ace Hardware, and I took him there not too long ago. As soon as he rode his Rascal through the front door the cashier said, “Hi, Wally!” Then he introduced me to Maria and proceeded to tell me about her and her family. He told me, loud enough for her to hear, “if you want to know where anything is in this store, Maria knows where it is. She is the best.” Whether it was one of his nurses, or a clerk in a store, the janitor, or an administrative staff person, my dad would make them feel important and special. He would make them want to use their abilities to the fullest. Because he truly believed they were special, and a child of God. In heaven, “the last shall be first.” My dad never did anything to put himself “first.” I know right now, my dad is in the VIP section.

On October 22d, I ran my first marathon. Because of his illness, he wasn’t able to be there, but he was still “watching” from his bed (on TV). I stopped by the day before the marathon, and he told me “I’m proud of you.” To him, I didn’t even need to finish, and he would have been proud of the effort. Even though physically he had everything going wrong, he would selflessly encourage me and others in their pursuits.

I put my marathon medal around my dad’s neck as he died Tuesday. He deserves it much more than me. He ran the race of life better than anyone I’ve ever known. He has impacted the lives of those around him immeasurably and I will miss him more than words can say. I can only hope that my son Wally is half of the man my dad was. It was a privilege and an honor to have him in our lives.

written memories of Wally, contributed by Bonnie Tinder (Wally’s daughter), on the occasion of Wally’s death, November 7, 2006 

Can you add to the story? Please do. Write in the box below (You may need to click “Leave a Reply” above to make the box, name, and address fields appear.).

  • Were you there at Bonnie’s race? Can you add details?
  • Do you have stories of Wally and the Rascal that you can share? I seem to remember something about the Rascal running out of juice and getting stuck. Can you tell that story?
  • What endeavors did Wally encourage you in?
  • The photo is a snip from one Marcia Duncan took, I think at Joy’s wedding. Can someone confirm the location and date? Thanks.

2 thoughts on “Marathon Wally Finishes the Race

  1. Dawn Duncan Harrell Post author

    Barbara Duncan (Wally’s wife) writes: Bonnie ran the Marathon in 2006 just a couple of weeks before Wally died (on Nov. 7th) The swimming race she mentions was at the Leaning Tower YMCA in Niles, Il. Wally had taught her to swim in the same pool. Yes, he decided to ride to the hardware store when I was having my annual recital. He was frustrated he couldn’t attend because it wasn’t handicapped accessible. He ran out of battery…and I could not leave to rescue him. I called Joy who did. One other time his scooter got stuck on a speed bump and a lady had to help push him over it. One other time I was out and he decided to go somewhere. He didn’t get very far…just to the major road near our house. A policeman stopped him, to save him from being in a dangerous place for a scooter. He put him in his squad car, put the scooter in the trunk and brought him home. I came home as the policeman was about to leave. He stopped me, “Do you know this man?” and proceeded to tell me about the incident. Wally sheepishly rode back into the building with me, I’m sure, feeling like the little boy who has just been scolded.

  2. Dawn Duncan Harrell Post author

    Marcia Duncan writes: “Joy and Scott Bianchi married on 1/3/ 1998 in Chicago. The picture of Aunt Barb and Uncle Wally was taken at the reception. The wedding ceremony was at Moody Church so the scooter incident was definitely not at the time but at a latter time at a wedding out in the suburbs. I am thinking Taylor’s.”

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