AS YOU LIKE IT, Act II, Scene 7
This is my August/September publisher’s column for California Track & Running News, on Tom Sturak and my visit to the memorial service last May:
On May 15, I was at the AAF Library in Los Angeles for a memorial for one of the giants on which this sport’s infrastructure was built, Tom Sturak, who had died on April 29, 2011. Tom was married to women’s running pioneer Jacqueline Hansen, who cared for him over the past decade as he slipped into a very difficult physical and mental decline. Her profound love and respect for the man she shared her life with for thirty-something years was striking and the memorial was a tremendous testimony to not only Tom, but to Tom and Jackie’s love for each other.
Sturak was a high school and college track athlete, setting 6 school records at San Diego State and winning 2 conference titles. He ran for the San Diego Track Club and SoCal Striders. Running was a huge part of his life, but it was his ability to affect people that made him stand out. His best high school friend, Walt Fisher, quoted from their yearbook. Coaches from Jim Bush to Lazlo Tabori spoke of his kindness and support. Athletes Willie Banks and Tom & Ruth Wysocki remembered their dealings with him. 1972 Olympic bronze medalist and ’83 NYC Marathon winner Rod Dixon also drove up to pay his respects. Remembrances from 40+ people drew a picture of a man who was key to the development of modern sports marketing, from the companies that hired the athletes, to the managers and agents who represented them. Sturak, and his buddy Pat Peterson spent more than 15 summers in Europe and Asia at track meets, representing athletes.
The memorial service was emceed by Tom’s longtime friend John Gregorio, who worked with Tom at both Nike and Reebok. His stories of Tom, along with the tributes from coaches, friends, and athletes were touching. Bill Scobey (“Mad Dog” in his running days), who could have been Tom’s twin, and John Anderson and Bob Deines, offered touching tributes to a man who had affected their lives. Anderson, who wrote for rock music magazines for decades, hasn’t missed a day of running in something like 42 years, I believe, and Deines (4th in the 1968 Olympic Trials marathon) went on to became an ultra marathon legend.
Some folks couldn’t be there in person but sent messages including Mark Bossardet, who was hired by Sturak at Reebok. Mark noted: “Tom and I did not get off to the best start, but Tom told me that I would go far.” Jackie confided that “Tom loved Boz; he liked his New York attitude.”
Another was Pat Devaney, a man who, like Sturak, gave many people their start in the business, who wrote this about his friend: “It should be known to all that a part of Tom’s legacy was his behind-the-scenes involve- ment in launching two of the world’s top athletic footwear brands. Tom gave many a young athlete the oppor- tunity to compete at national and international levels that greatly influenced their development as athletes and individuals. Tom was an integral part of the fiber that helped shape and define the sport of track & field in the ’80s and ’90s.”
It was an emotional day for me and I found it hard to get out what I really wanted to say. After a few false starts, I noted about Tom something my father has told me over and over: “What is truly im- portant in life is who you love and who loves you. Friendships and love are the key.”
You will be missed, Tom, and you will continue to be loved.
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