WESTVILLE – It was a humbling feeling for the Lays family when they were told Fred Lays, Sr. would be honoured with a race in his name.
He shares the honour with Jimmy Hawboldt, whose Labour Day road races in Westville are celebrating 38 years on Sept. 1.
The event was renamed in 2005 to include Lays, and is now known as the Jimmy Hawboldt/Fred Lays, Sr. Memorial Road Race.
“I shouldn’t say I was shocked, but I kind of was – I was certainly humbled when they added Fred’s name to that 10 years ago,” said Cheryl Lays, Fred’s widow. “I don’t know who was instrumental in doing that, perhaps it was Susan (Oliver) because she and Fred worked a lot together doing the race.”
Cheryl said that Fred was always a regular at the Jimmy Hawboldt races over the years in one way or another. If he wasn’t participating as a runner he was working at it. Cheryl remembers him timing the event on multiple occasions or just doing whatever needed to be done in organizing the annual event. She added that Susan Oliver also played a big role over the years in helping Fred co-organize the event.
“It seems there was always the Jimmy Hawboldt race and Fred always partook,” said Cheryl. “Years ago there was a running club and Fred looked after that after other individuals and was always involved in some aspect of the race. He started out running it and when he got involved in working it I got involved because I’m the other half.”
This November it will be 12 years since Fred passed away. Cheryl said it doesn’t feel like that many years since she lost her best friend because he left her with so many happy memories, three kids and, hopefully this week, an eighth grandchild.
“He’s gone, but he’s still there because his name is there,” she said. “I don’t think there’s a higher tribute around for anyone that passes on to remember them.
“When you’re living in a small town or a small county any athlete is great, but when you’re recognized after you pass on I just feel that – it just makes me proud to be living in an area like that where people don’t forget.”
On Monday, Sept. 1, it will be the first race she will miss since her husband’s passing. She is in Ontario this week as their daughter Melissa was due to have a baby girl.
“It’s bothering me, but I know that I’m still doing a family thing, going to look after my late husband’s eighth grandchild,” she said.
Annually, Cheryl has presented an award in Fred’s honour for determination and desire. This year his brother Jim will be presenting on her behalf.
In the past she said she didn’t know who would be the recipient of the award until the day of the race. She always watches the races, looking for someone that reminds her of Fred; someone that is out at the event for the joy of it, for the camaraderie, showing the determination and desire she saw in her late husband.
“Fred ran constantly, but he didn’t run to win,” she said. “He ran alongside people that were slow like me, alongside young people that were starting out or would stop if someone was sitting down. He never worried about winning and even through his cancer, when he would get his chemo he would go home and go for a run. It might have only been a two-mile run, but he would do it every time. His life became running, biking and swimming once he retired.”
This year’s race registration opens at 8:30 a.m. at the Westville Civic Building. There will be a $15 fee per person, which includes race clothing. The children’s events in Victoria Park are free.
The one-mile race will begin at 9:30 a.m. and the five-mile at 10 a.m.
“On the day of the race, this sounds crazy, but I talk to Fred,” said Cheryl. “I tell him ‘here we go buddy, it’s your day again. Make sure you’re there.’ He usually is, in spirit for sure. I’m almost euphoric on that day. I feel such pride and happiness when that day comes and maybe it’s because they’re honouring Fred and Jimmy Hawboldt, who was such a wonderful man.
“You’re sad, but yet you’re happy at the same time. You want to cry, but you don’t want to cry.”
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