Saturday, February 27, 2016

Tribute to Dennis Fairall

*All pictures taken from the Windsor Star newspaper website....

A month ago or so word got out that there was going to be a celebration of longtime Windsor Lancer track and cross country coach Dennis Fairall.  I immediately put the event on the calendar, and no sooner the phone was ringing and the emails were getting set to go to the festivities.  So fast forward a few weeks, met up with my very good pal Drew Barisdale, room was booked at the Casino, and it would be off to Windsor for a quick, but very important 36 hours....

So I met up with Drew in London.  We were roommates for 4 years in Windsor, we both ran on the track and cross country teams, and we remain very good friends.  I see Drew 3 or 4 times a year, which is actually quite a lot considering this has gone on for 15 years, 4 kids between us, marriages, and full time work.  So wasting little time, I parked the truck in a parking lot in London, and we drove down together .  We wasted little time getting to conversation.  It was a more formal catch up from last crossing paths at Halloween just before going to Virgin Gorda, and the odd phone conversations over the last few weeks.  He is doing fine, and no complaints from me.

It was a incredible turnout of former and current athletes, work colleagues from the University, other coaches, and there was his family and friends there too.  There was about 500 people there.  I couldn't begin to name the notables, but I saw hundreds of people from yesteryear - it seemed like it anyway.  It was so many people.

In no particular order - it was a blast to see Johnny Cress and Phil Mathias, though I do see them every other year or so at different events. I saw Michelle, Dana, Missy and Tina.  4 (stunningly) great girls with so much beauty and life among them.  Duper and Marnie were there.  I ate dinner with O'Brian Gibbons, Kevin Far, Andy Hahn, Mike Gingras and Donny Garrod.  90s Lancers were not complete without mentioning those 5 names.  Also Mike Kainz, Dave Weston, Tom Beale, Jeremy Carbonarro, Billy Lessard, Zeke, Giller, Haller, Enver, Joe, Kevin O'Conner and on, and on, and on.....  I have missed a lot of names.

Wow....  It blew my mind seeing everyone.  And I will tell you everyone there looked absolutely terrific.  Beyond terrific in fact. I can't underscore this enough.  If looks could kill - this room would have slayed!  Nobody seemed to have let themselves go, or look like they had gained weight or popped out a double chin.  People were in their finest, and I was totally in awe.  I would swear time had forgotten these former athletes. There was the token balding guy, someone going a bit grey, a waistline that was bigger, but these were exceptions, not the norm.

The unfortunate thing of it is, however, Dennis himself is having health problems and is retiring as a result of his diminishing state.  Although he looks terrific - way more grey hair, sadly he is no longer working in his former capacity because it is too much.  He is however doing a bit of coaching and guidance for a few athletes still.  But physically he looked okay.  I can image it was an overwhelming night for him.  I know he had a great time.  I am fortunate to have had a great chit chat with him back at Halloween in Waterloo for 10 minutes with him.  And I was also happy that throughout the 2000s and into the 2010s he was up in Goderich during the cross country teams training camp.  Looking back I am thankful for those times, just as much as the time I spent with him from 1994 - 1999 as an athlete.

At any rate the night was a huge success.  Speeches and tributes flowed from the podium as many fine guest speakers took the stage and reflected.  Drew and I continued with a bit of reflection ourselves with all of the great teammates, friends, coaches and acquaintances.  There was the past, but the future is ahead of us all and it was time to start making new memories for the next time we get together again.

So congrats again Dennis.  It was a great event.

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