Dianne (Gerace) Fox’s Tribute
I regret that I have a commitment in Nassau which makes it impossible for me to be here in person today to share some memories of Willi with you.
After I left Trail in 1966, and eventually moved to the Bahamas, the memories of my Track and Field days gradually faded, only to briefly resurface when I stopped in to visit Willi and Eva on my trips to Trail to see my parents. So, for this “Celebration of Willi’s life” I have really had to spend some serious time reflecting back to come up with some memories which I would like to share with you today.
The first time I recall seeing Willi, I distinctly recall him commenting to the coach running the practice that I needed to change my jumping style. I’m sure I must have thought, “Wow, that was bold, who is this man?” But as I look back, remembering Willi, I realize that was the most natural comment for him to make. He had the experience and the eye to see what needed to change and as long as I can remember being around him, he was like that.
In those very early days, there were some very talented high school female sprinters and a pole vaulter that I can recall being at practices. It was exciting for me to watch those girls train and compete so I can imagine how this must have thrilled Willi to find such talent in the small town of Trail. Over the years, athletes, came and went… Some more talented than others. Based on Willi’s assessment, everyone, in spite of their talent, was assigned an event and they became a part of the Trail Track and Field Club, training along with everyone else under Willi’s guidance.
Needless to say, equipment was sparse in the beginning but Willi’s determination, creativity, and carpentry skills provided the Club with equipment that was lacking. I can clearly recall the wooden hurdles he built which introduced me to that event and, later on, the large sponged-filled pits for high jumpers and pole vaulters – which, believe me, were a huge improvement over landing in sawdust. And of course, there was the indoor banked track he built which we used at the Cominco Gym.
Reflecting back on some of my practices I realize how well Willi was able to read my moods. Motivating myself to jump in practice, against myself, over and over, was sometimes very difficult for me and I certainly did my share of “whining”. But, in spite of that, he somehow managed to encourage me to try again, and again, and again. I don’t ever recall an expression of anger or frustration on his part. He was incredibly patient with me. And, as I reflect on practices, in general, I just cannot conjure up an image of Willi being angry or impatient with any athlete.
Willi often physically involved himself in practice by demonstrating techniques for different events. But my fondest memory of Willi’s technical demonstrations was for Toni Tenisci in the hammer circle where he would grab the hammer and spin, spin, spin, spin on the spot… under control in that small circle… and then let the hammer fly. What a sight that was!
The halls and stairways of Central School, during Willi’s dinner hour for his custodial job there, was another one of his very creative ways of training us during those winter nights. A rigid schedule was set and for one hour we raced up and down halls or climbed the stairs. I walked up the stairs with Toni Tenisci, riding piggyback. Yes, the same Toni Tenisci who became the future hammer thrower. Although he was just young boy of about 12 or 13. But he was still a very, very robust Italian boy. Although it was hard work it was also really humorous and anyone who remembers Toni in those days, with his red cheeks and giggles, can probably identify with what a sight we were!
Willi was always looking for new opportunities to improve the training facilities for the athletes and luck would have it that the father of a young high jumper from Rossland, who had joined the Club, had a weight gym in his basement. Enter Charlie Coflin, fitness buff and ex-military man, crew cut and all!. When Willi got a look at that basement gym it wasn’t long before his passion for track and field and Charlie’s for fitness/ weight training joined forces to reconfigure that small gym – lowering the floor, adding weights, putting up posters, and building home made weight machines – which turned it into a place where I, along with other athletes, would spend many hours, working with Charlie, on strength programs Willi had set up. His foresight to capitalize on that opportunity, and Charlie Coflin’s keenness, were very instrumental in my great improvement in 1964.
For the Women’s Pentathlon, which was to be introduced in the 1964 Olympics, it was necessary for me to run the 200m, which was the bane of my track and field existence. It is from this event that I recall Willi’s famous, “and one more” method of coaching. This is how it would go. I would start out thinking, okay I can run some of these today in practice and off I went. After some time I would start asking Willi, “how many more’? and he would say “and one more”. Now I took “and one more” to mean that after running numerous 200’s in practice that I only had to run “one more ” and then practice was over. Not in Willi’s world! “And one more” to him simply meant “one more until you got to the end of the 200, walked the rest of the way around the track… and then “one more”, until he deemed “and one more” was the last one. The fact that I can smile when I think of that memory tells me that I was never pushed beyond reason, that was not Willi’s m.o… He was not excessive in his demands, but he just knew how to encourage you along, beyond what you thought you could accomplish.
One of my fondest memories is traveling to meets within BC – some of us in Willi’s Volkswagen and some athletes in cars driven by supportive parents. I always got to sit in the front seat next to Willi (because Dianne gets car sick in the back!). He was such an interesting personality and great story teller – it seemed he was never at a loss for words. Of course there was much talk of track and field but we also covered a wide range of topics. Those were really special times for me.
Willi was not just a coach of athletics but a caring mentor and friend who was always interested in the lives of his athletes. I recall many visits to his home, on my own, and with other athletes. His dear wife, Eva (of whom I have the fondest of memories), always joined us after providing refreshments and never failed, herself, to show her loving support to all of us. Over the years whenever I stopped in to see Willi and Eva on my visits to my family in Trail, they continued to show great interest in my life and also the lives of their former athletes. Willi and Eva were also very proud of the athletes who were, at the time of those visits, a part of the club and newspaper clippings would be brought out for showing.
As I continue to reflect, more and more memories come to mind, but I realize others have to share on this special occasion. Suffice it to say that this exercise of remembering has caused me to see very clearly that during a span of 6 years of my life I had the most incredible good fortune to have been exposed to, not only the coaching of Willi Krause, but to the man himself, and my life was greatly enriched as a result.
Thank you Willi. Here’s to your life!