Vic Navarra was one of the grand characters that make up the tapestry called the ING New York City Marathon. Like all big city marathons that followed, the late Fred Lebow invited, cajoled, begged many of the good souls and hearts that make up the five boroughs. Vic was one of them. I met Vic through my favorite former fireman, Victah Sailer. I remember just saying hello to Vic Navarra at the various events over the years. He was unassuming, but again, one of the guys who made the event go smoothly.
When Victah told me that Vic had cancer a few years ago, I was stunned. He also told me how Vic would still be involved in the Marathon and other races, year in, year out. I felt that it was appropriate to celebrate Vic's life with a thoughtful tribute from Victor Sailer, so here it goes:
A Tribute to Vic Navarra, by Victor Sailer
At the end of every year, many sit down and try to remember all of the great things accomplished/lost and set a list of things to do in the New Year. 2007 was a very tough year in the running industry as we lost too many fantasic people. Mike Long, elite athlete coordinator for Elite Racing and founder of the Entoto Foundation and all around great guy, passed away on July 18th, from natural causes. Over 400 of the most important running personel and his friends paid their respect to Mike at his tribute, some flying from Ethiopia all the way to San Diego to pay their respect. It was truly amazing display of respect for a wonderfully loved man.
Vic Navarra, was a 56, a retired FDNY member and noted for his wonderful personality and his love of running. Vic was well regarded as one of the experts in starting major road running events, as he was the Start Coordinator for the ING NYC Marathon for over 25 years. Not only did he conduct the World's Most Famous Running Event, he also worked on the BAA Boston Marathon, RocknRoll San Diego Marathon, Arizona Rock n Roll Marathon, Philadelphia Distance Classic and the Rock n Roll Half Marathon in Va Beach. He was joined almost all the time by his wife Joanne, and his daughter Kristie who took over for Vic this past November in NYC.
Vic was a Lieutenant in the FDNY when he retired in 1997. It was funny when I first met Vic in the 1980's, as we share the same name, both worked in the FDNY and both were wildly involved in the world of Track and Field. We would meet at many different locations in the world of running but we were both bonded after 9/11. I met Vic a few times while working at Ground Zero. Vic was very involved even though he was retired at the time, this was very common as alot was protrayed on TV, etc
After hearing of a fellow Firefighter, who ran thru the Brooklyn Battery Tunnell(Brooklyn to Manhattan) to help on 911. FF Stephen Stiller lost his life and was one of the 343 members lost on that tragic day, Vic was asked to be the coordinator of the Stephen Stiller-Tunnell to Towers every September, which now numbers over 15,000 runners.
When I was contacted by a former World Class Marathoner, Mike O'Reilly of Britain in 2001 after 9/11. Mike was the race director of the British 10km and wanted know if I was interested in bringing a few FDNY members to help raise money for the FDNY. Vic was the first person I contacted. Later that summer, in 2002, we were joined by Joan Benoit-Samuelson, Steve Jones, and Catherine Ndereba to raise funds for the FDNY. We continued to run the British 10km until this year. Unfortunately, Vic was unable to go as he contacted cancer just after the 2006 event from all of his love and compassion due to his dedication to working to help those who perished at ground zero.
We lost 2 great men in 2007 and will start 2008 with a funeral on Jan 5th for Vic Navarra. Vic, you will be sorely missed for your great smile, human compassion and being a great guy.
For more on Vic Navarra, please click: http://www.silive.com/news/index.ssf/2007/12/vic_navarra_dies_at_55_staten.html