Father, grandfather, brother, and friend, Francis McNamara of Edmonton passed away on December 27 after 85 active years. “Frank” leaves behind three loving sons, Ross, Gerard, and Thomas and their spouses, Dianna, Jody and Katherine; as well as grandchildren Teague, Drew, Sienna, and Claire. Predeceased by mother Jeanne and father Leo; he is survived by siblings Lorraine, Maurice, and Rose.
Frank lived an event-filled life. He was fiercely independent and an intense competitor who attacked his goals with passion and grit. From playing “cat and mouse” with Russian ships on an instrument panel aboard a Canadian frigate in the early 1960s to becoming a masters champion distance runner, cross-country skier and triathlete, Frank sought to challenge himself and found success.
After leaving the navy, Frank returned to Alberta to apply his problem-solving skills in the booming oil patch. Several years later, tired of traveling and wanting to be closer to his young family, he took a job at NAIT in the electronics service department, where he worked for over three decades. It was here that he would form many life-long friendships and spark a love for athletics.
In his mid thirties, Frank experienced an excruciating gallstone that led to a sudden surgery. Returning home a week later, he decided to make a big change. He ditched smoking, altered his diet, and immediately embraced running. What started with jogging around the block with his three sons soon grew into competing in everything from local 10Ks to national nordic ski races to international triathlons.
Frank was tireless when it came to training and coaching. At NAIT, he co-founded a cross country running program for students and staff, and added a nordic ski program years later, coaching in both for decades until his retirement in 2000. He was also a longtime member and volunteer at the Edmonton Nordic Ski Club, where he constructed ski trails, set tracks, and ran waxing clinics. And as a fixture at local hangouts like George’s Cycle, Tech Shop, Running Room, and Fast Trax, he inspired a loyal following with free watch repairs and training and gear tips for anyone who asked.
But perhaps his greatest impact on the community is the Frank McNamara Cross Country Race Series, an Edmonton River Valley running institution that draws hundreds each Wednesday night in Spring and Fall. Frank’s wild and wooly trail design is legendary. As a legacy to Frank, the race organizer will retain the series in his name.
Although the family is sad that Frank is gone, there is great comfort in knowing that he gave so much to Edmonton’s athletic community. In recent years his injuries and declining health took a toll, but he is now racing again, pain-free, with a breeze at his back and a sparkle in his eye.
To honour Frank’s life, the family is planning an online celebration of life on Jan 31, 2020. In lieu of gifts or flowers, please consider supporting the community-driven Frank McNamara bench/trail tribute campaign at https://www.facebook.com/WednesdayNightCrossCountry/.