George-melanoma-storyresizedRemembering my Dad, George

Submitted by Jack’s Marathon team member Alicia Johnston in 2013:

The other day, Jack’s Fund’s Facebook page featured a story about why a certain individual was running the marathon, in honor of a man who was very important to him, who had passed from melanoma.

It made me feel like I had not written enough about my dad, so I’m glad you’re reaching out for more stories now.

My dad, George, was regarded as renaissance man by virtually everyone who knew him.

He had the most interesting life, with varied interests and an impressive mix of abilities.

He had been a Navy pilot, had a bachelor’s degree in chemistry, served as a pilot for Eastern Airlines for many years, was a partner and electrician in the family electrical contracting business, and was a certified flight instructor who did a lot of pro-bono lessons.

 He loved to golf, play ping pong, cook recipes from The Joy of Cooking, take calculus classes to stay sharp, hike in the mountains, and graft trees to create his apple orchard.

 In my opinion though, his most impressive accomplishment was retiring from the airlines and following his dream of starting a landscaping company, which enabled him to take sole custody of his two grade-school aged daughters (me and my little sister).

 As a single dad with a new business, things were tricky but what amplified the challenge was his diagnosis of melanoma.

 He was told he would have only six months to live, and started imagining a future in which my little sister and I would have to go on without him.

 However, he stayed strong, was treated by Mayo Clinic, and recovered miraculously quickly.

 He survived twenty more years.

 That was long enough to put me and my little sister through college.

It was long enough to watch us both get our master’s degrees (in accountancy and business respectively) and start our finance – related careers.

 It was long enough to teach my older brother to fly and watch him follow in his father’s footsteps, also becoming an airline pilot.

 It was long enough for him to meet the amazing guy I’m going to marry this fall, and even long enough for him to transplant some trees for us,which we get to look at every day.

It was long enough for him to meet the love of his life, though the time they spent together was too short.

 There were only seven weeks between his 2nd melanoma diagnosis last year and his passing.

I’m sure he would have cherished seeing what is to come for all of us.

It would be so incredibly meaningful to me to run the marathon in his honor.

He would love to see me making the most of my health and cultivating the discipline necessary to complete the race.

Promoting sun protection is always at the forefront of my mind now.

 I would love it if everyone had the level of awareness I do when I see a sunbeam hitting my arm while driving with the window down, or when I stroll up to a restaurant patio and decide to seek a shady table.

I plan to continue to nudge people to make good decisions about taking care of their skin.

 The race will be a good step (many, many steps!) in that direction hopefully.