Nick’s Notes: Absence makes the Hart grow fonder
December 24, 2014
Christmas came early for Marie Hanson.
The Tracy-Milroy-Balaton cross-country coach got a letter on the final day of October from the Reed Hart Trust notifying her of a donation to the cross country program.
Hart was an avid runner from Pipestone who was active in the southwest Minnesota and southeastern South Dakota running community.
Hart died in July at the age of 87 and Hanson knew that he had left some money to the program in September.
"I remember thinking, 'What a great guy, such a nice thing to do for us. We aren't even his hometown.' I assumed it would be a couple hundred bucks, which would have been great," said Hanson via email.
However, when Hanson opened up the letter in her classroom while her eighth period students took a quiz, she was shocked.
"I opened the letter and it took the wind out of me. I felt paralyzed because I couldn't tell the students and I couldn't leave my room! I probably had the strangest facial expression for the remainder of the hour," she said.
Hart had left $20,000 to the program.
"Right after class I ran (yes, ran) to my assistant coach's classroom and let her read the letter, then to my Activities Director, and then to the Superintendent. Everyone's eyes widened and mouth dropped as they read the amount," she said.
Hart had also left the same amount to other local programs including Fulda, Worthington, Okabena, the Prairie Striders Running Club, as well as few others.
This was an emphatic finish for a man who enjoyed running and everything that came along with it.
"He was the only hero I've ever had in my life," said his cousin Doug Hart, who now lives in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina. The two grew up together in Pipestone.
After serving in World War II and in Korea, Hart decided that he didn't want a conventional career.
He worked as a craftsman on government contracts all over the globe.
That's where he honed his love of running.
"He really started jogging when he went to Kwajalein. He was so isolated out there he didn't know what to do," said Doug. Reed went on to form running clubs there and in Riyad, Saudi Arabia.
When he retired to Pipestone in 1985, he continued jogging.
He helped form running groups in the area. He also made race trophies by hand out of wood. He ran two 10K races at age 85.
"It became a passion of his. It wasn't that he was out to win any races. He never won a race when he competed. He did it because of good health. That's what he tried to foster for everyone," said Doug.
Hanson said that the she is planning on using the funds to help improve the Tracy Box Car Days road race, which supports the TMB cross country team.
"Area runners are in for a treat this summer," she said.
Hanson said the team plans to honor Hart and his generosity as well.
Doug said that a quote that describes Reed is, "The sign of a truly contented person who enjoys the scenery while being forced to take a detour."
Even though Hart has crossed his last finish line, his spirit and generosity will continue on for many more races.