Blackhawk Ski Club
’66/’70 FIS Team, ’68 Olympic Team
All of us want to see the results of competition and the excitement of the moment. That is the nature of sport, it draws us in to be part of it and becomes part of who we are. Then there are the memories of special moments that touch our hearts and make it extra special. I experienced one such moment back in the 1965-66 Four Hills Tournament.
Some of you may recall Randy Garretson from the state of Washington. He grew up in the Pacific Northwest and at the time most of the jumping team was from the Midwest. So we never knew Randy as a kid attending junior competitions growing up with us. With Randy however you got to know him very quickly. With his quick wit and approach to life, which was always full throttle, everybody got to know him well. He always had our coach Art Tokle shaking his head, but always with a smile.
Randy told me that when he was a kid his mother made him practice the piano every day after school for at least an hour. He hated it but he had to do it at the level his mother demanded. She recognized his talent.
During the Four Hills we traveled to each city by train. Randy would get up and walk through the cars visiting with all the other teams and being the life of the party. They all got to know him too, you couldn’t help but get to know Randy.
The last day we were all packed up to leave and were sitting in the banquet hall of the hotel eating our lunch. There were five or six other countries there, including the Russians, Japanese and East Germans as I recall. Up on the stage was a big upright piano and Randy said to Tokle, “Hey Art, do you think it would be OK if rather than eating I just went up and played the piano for a while?” Art said it would be just fine. Randy walked up and removed the big covering over the piano. I thought as I am sure many in the room did, what was this goof-ball going to do now? He sat down with his back towards us and began to play. It was mesmerizing. Some Bach, Mozart, some show tunes like Gershwin, Roger Williams’ “Autumn Leaves”, Boogie-Woogie, Jerry Lee Lewis, etc. After nearly an hour he turned and stood up. Every person in the room gave him a huge standing ovation. Who would have known? It was one of those “sweet moments” I will always remember from my travels ski-jumping.
Randy passed away in December 2020 on Whidbey Island in the state of Washington where he lived. I talked to him a couple of times over the years and he led a full life even though his broken neck in 1968 prevented him from walking or playing the piano.