On March 27, 2017 the world became a little less friendly and enjoyable. A good man and friend, Woody Cross, passed away from a horrible disease, cancer. He had struggled with this illness for a couple of years. His struggles were a little closer to home for us, as Caroline also suffered from a tumor during that time. We frequently exchanged notes about our mutual oncologist.
I initially met Woody while competing in the Interior Road Race Series about 30 years ago. I was living in Kamloops and this shorter, non athletic looking guy, with the big heart from Kelowna, was nipping at my heels in every race. For years we competed against each other, with my shadow always a short distance behind. One was always dramatically aware of Woody because he seemed to have a flock of female runners around him much of the time. I recall a group of young ladies proudly wearing T-shirts depicting themselves as “Woody’s Wicked Wenches”. Who was this man??
I eventually moved to Kelowna and actually became a friend of “Mr. Woody”, as I learned his clients would call him. He was well respected by the many people he helped immigrate to Canada or leave, not so voluntarily.
A variety of runners worked in downtown Kelowna. Upholding a long-standing tradition, 15 or 20 of us began running from the old arena on Ellis Street. We ran from this venerable structure most lunch hours and became known as the Nooners. We would meet in the stark showers of the old arena and strip in front of each other, relating aspects of our particular lives, before setting out for our lunchtime reprieve from work. With all that stripping, we may have known more about each other than desired.
There was a large group of Kelowna people with running as an initial focus, but, as we all passed the various seasons of our lives, many embarked on different paths. Even though racing was no longer a primary focus for many of us, in the spirit of health and camaraderie, there were always Saturday morning runs with the Ol’ Goats and the Creekers Run on Monday and Thursday evenings. Woody was an integral part of all of this with his tales of apprehending illegals told with much humour and insight on the human condition. He was president of the Kelowna Running Club for a couple of terms, organized many races, was a creator of such events as the pub run and, of course, ran in numerous events. He was a big part of the running community in Kelowna.
As the years slipped by, running and racing was not the only thought in our minds. We began meeting for social gatherings. There were Running Club Christmas parties, Helen’s frollicky gatherings, Mike and Judy’s pizza nights, early morning breakfasts to celebrate birthdays, and a lot less racing.
In our changing lives, Woody and I became a member of an old friend’s network. We were part of a, sort-of support group, called the Boardroom with the lady’s version, called the Shareholders. We have met once a month for several years whereby a few beer gets filtered along with some bar food at a local pub. The membership has grown to about 20 male and 10 female members, who join together to make fun of each other and discuss the latest sports scores or political events. Guys, of course, avoid anything emotional while I’m not sure what the ladies talk about. Woody was always a big part of this group, but, as his illness progressed, he attended less often in recent months.
Woody and Kathie have been going to Kihei on Maui every winter for many years. Their initiative caused a variety of Kelowna people to similarly enjoy this wonderful tropical island. Not being one to be left out of a good thing, Caroline and I also started spending our winter holidays in Kihei. There was a race during January every year called the Maui Oceanfront Marathon. Woody and several others had been entering various distances of this race for a few years. I decided to join everyone and try my hand at a tropical race, after many years of not racing at all. I was to, once again, race against my old nemesis, the Woodster. In our first Maui race he blew past me and I became his faithful shadow. We entered this race for a second year, whereby I trained for the event in hopes of better results. I did have a better showing, but so did Woody. He placed first while I was a distant second in our age group. We joked about his bucket list goal to trounce me in a race, but I think this was a rather minor goal, as he completed the Boston and New York Marathons, and many other memorable events.
I have been writing this blog for a couple of years now and, upon Woody’s passing, I began to realize what a big part of the running community, Kelowna, and my life in general he has been over the last 30 years. I have written at least three blogs in which Woody was a central character. He became affectionately known as ‘the wily one’ during our race exploits on Maui, Duel in the Sun 1 and 2
( http://www.runonron.com/dual-sun-one/ ) ( http://www.runonron.com/duel-sun-two/ ) and could be identified as ‘the chatty one’ as a central character in the ‘Having a Nooner’ article ( http://www.runonron.com/have-a-nooner/ ). He was present during our wedding on Secret Beach and had the good presence of mind to bring along a celebratory bottle of Champagne. Thanks Woody, that was a special moment. Woody was always larger than life and memorable in many situations for many people…and certainly mine. Woody, my friend, you will be sorely missed by many.
Run on Mr. Woody!!