Monday, October 14, 2013


Fact: Of the 313 million people in the United States, only one thousand and three of those American citizens are U.S. Figure Skating Judges. That's just 0.0003% of the entire population.

Because we're a small group, there is a sense of family among figure skating officials due to the hours and hours we spend together, our shared experiences in the officials' room (what happens in the officials' room, stays in the officials' room), and our love of the sport. I've been a judge since 1996 and in those 17 years, I have made many, many friends from all over the country. 

I was only a few years into my judging career when, as I looked around an officials' room and saw the span of generations, I began to wonder what it was going to be like when the senior generation started to pass away. You don't want to think about that stuff, but I am Irish and thoughts like that are part of my genetic make-up.  

If I consider all U.S. officials family, I think of the Minnesota officials as my immediate family. We have watched as some of our officials have battled cancer and others fade away because of Alzheimer's disease and old age. We had time to say goodbye and many of them had the opportunity to say goodbye to us. 

But my Minnesota family recently suffered a loss that we weren't prepared for when Marlys Larson passed away.  I had just been at a competition in Madison, Wis., with Marlys three weeks earlier and she was healthy. There is nothing that stands out from that day that would have made me think her days were numbered.  Since I knew that her mom had lived past the age of 100, I was pretty sure Marlys would outlive me. 

But one week later, Marlys suffered aortic dissection while in Iowa for a dog show (more on that topic later). She had surgery and seemed to have come out of the surgery fine. I was thinking, 'well, she'll rally back from this.' Then five days after the surgery, she started having strokes and I went from thinking that 'she'll rally back from this' to 'it might take her a bit longer to rally back from this.' The next day, I learned that they had found bleeding in her brain and all they could do was to make her comfortable until the end. I, as well as many others in our family, were not ready to accept that she wouldn't survive this. She passed away early morning on October 5th. 

Since I hadn't grown up in the Twin Cities, I didn't know of Marlys before I started judging except that she was the mother of one of the coaches at my club. In getting to know Marlys, I discovered she was a dog lover and showed dogs. My immediate assumption was prejudiced by painting Marlys as an 'Edina housewife' and I figured she showed poodles or some fancy breed. I was floored when I learned that Marlys' dog of choice was the slobbery Saint Bernard. It was her passion outside of figure skating and I always enjoyed hearing stories of Axel and Linus. 

As we said goodbye to her this past Saturday at the Lakewood Memorial Chapel in Minneapolis. we were surrounded by beautiful mosaics of four strong women (Love, Hope, Memory (in the photo) and Faith) and it seemed very appropriate for a celebration of Marlys' life. If there was one word that describes Marlys, it is strength. 

Now, just like in blood families, Marlys and I argued about a lot of topics and there were many times that we drove each other crazy. We shared the "blunt talking gene." But we also had many times when worked very well together. During her first term as President of Twin City Figure Skating Association, I served as the secretary. During those four years, I spent more time with Marlys than I did with my own mother. 

And as much as we argued, I never lost respect for her as a judge. She knew the rulebook inside and out and she was the one person you wanted to be around when the judges' exam was out. (it was open book, so we weren't cheating) Marlys was also a monitor for new judges and she was always generous with her time. Equally so, Marlys provided skaters and coaches with great feedback and many sought out her opinion. These judges and skaters will be part of her legacy to the skating community. She is going to be missed.  

Friday, October 4, 2013

Happiness is
The Charlie Brown musical has a song called, "Happiness is..." that tells us that Happiness is two kinds of ice cream and so on. 


I had a new one yesterday when exchanging views with someone. 

Happiness is 
the smile that comes across your face 
and the sense of satisfaction you get 
when you realize that you made the right decision thirty-some years ago, 
after consuming too much alcohol, 
standing a frat house porch, 
when you said no.

So maybe not the Charlie Brown musical as much as the Lion King and the "Circle of Life."