Two Harbors residents Warren and Bill Miller were recently named the recipients of the 2019 Don Fennessy Volunteer of the Year Award from Grandma’s Marathon for their more than 40 years of work volunteering along the marathon route.
Bill died unexpectedly in April. He and Warren have volunteered for the marathon since the race’s second year in 1978. Bill typically served as the race captain for the Larsmont area and Warren was the captain near the race start at Sonju Two Harbors.
The pair conduct crowd and traffic control to keep the race course clear for runners as they make their way south toward Duluth.
Warren said he started volunteering almost by chance.
“Back when I was in high school the first year, the entertainment was called the German Band,” Warren said. “It was a bunch of old-timers that played at the starting line and they asked me to play along with them. I played trumpet back in high school and they needed some help, so they asked me to fill in.”
The Don Fennessy award is given annually to an individual or group who donate a tremendous amount of time volunteering for Grandma's Marathon and assist in the successful operation of the event. Don Fennessy was an original member of the Grandma's Marathon Board of Directors and Young Athletes Foundation committee. He was inducted into the Grandma's Marathon Hall of Fame in 2004.
Following Bill’s death, Warren found in Bill’s Two Harbors apartment a tie rack full of race lanyards from his many years of volunteering.
Warren said one of his favorite Grandma’s memories was one of his most recent — when he and Bill attended the annual volunteer kick-off event earlier this year for the first time.
“I said, ‘You know, I’ve never gone to this,’ and I don’t think he’d ever gone to it either,” Warren said. “So I picked him up and we went down to that … and I think that was the last time he and I got together, just the two of us, and did something.”
Volunteers still needed
Janelle Jones, president of the Two Harbors Area Chamber of Commerce and race start coordinator, said volunteers are still needed at the race start near Two Harbors and in the Larsmont area.
Volunteers are needed help with race setup, crowd control, water stops, gear bag checks and cleanup after the start.
For many years, Grandma’s volunteers have had a celebration following the race in Duluth. However, since there are so many people helping at the race start — more than 26 miles from Duluth — Grandma’s volunteer and program development director Tara Gallagher said race organizers decided to hold a second party for those in Two Harbors.
Gallagher said the 2019 celebration will start at 6 p.m. Wednesday, June 26, at the Two Harbors Moose Lodge.
For more information or to volunteer, contact the Two Harbors Chamber at 218-834-2600 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.