Jerry BeckwithJerry Beckwith has been described as a “giant among men” and “a member of the clean plate club of life.” Whether in his career or in his athletic pursuits, he pushed his limits and left no stone unturned. He wanted to be the best kayaker he could be and led many people on their first kayak trips down the rivers in this area. Jerry considered his many friends one of his greatest gifts. Jerry believed in people, encouraging them to follow their hopes and dreams. He wanted them to succeed. He became a legend on the river and in the hearts of many.

When he returned to road biking in 2004, he did so “to see how good I can be.” When asked “how did you win marathons and triathlons, what goes though your head; how do you push yourself?”, he replied, with a smile, “I learned how to suffer.” Perhaps it was all in preparation for his greatest challenge, ALS, with which he dealt with amazing courage. From the beginning he squeezed as much joy out of his life as was possible. He fulfilled dreams of traveling to France in July, 2005 and riding his bike on roads that would make the healthiest person crumble. He never backed down to his illness, often stating “I want this day to be the best possible.”

He openly shared his thoughts with many of us via email. He moved us to tears and made us proud to be his friend. The essence of Jerry’s spirit is courage and perseverance. The Baddle represents this with a challenging race and in raising awareness about a debilitating disease. We must carry on this legacy for Jerry and fight to overcome ALS. We gather to remember Jerry’s strengths: his love for life, his love for a challenge and his love for hanging out with his friends, enjoying music and a beautiful day.

Jerry was having some difficulty talking, so after the race, Jerry’s wife Brid, who was a competitor in the bike leg of the event, read a letter he had written. Here it is in its entirety.

Jerry's' Address to the Crowd - 2006
Jerry was having some difficulty talking, so after the race, Jerry’s wife Brid, who was a competitor in the bike leg of the event, read a letter he had written. Here it is in its entirety.

Ok, let me clear up a little exaggeration I put up on the website. I really didn’t meet 87 hot babes while sneaking around Gorilla. I met five. And I remember their names: Stacy, Katie, Andrea, Jennifer, and Pickle Girl. Actually, I don’t think I really talked to Stacy, Katie, Andrea, or Jennifer on the rock while carrying Gorilla. I yelled to them while they were in the eddy below the notch. You all know those girls never carry Gorilla – so I’m coming clean before it’s too late.

I did talk to pickle girl though. She’d just been mercilessly hammered at Zwicks, and her lame boyfriend asked me to take care of her while he ran the Monkey, so I did. I gave her a pair of gloves to warm her hands, and tried to stop her from crying.

So I really did meet one hot babe while sneaking around Gorilla.

I had big plans for the Green. I was gonna challenge Woody to make a descent at 65 years of age. By then, Woody would have had about 2000 runs in to my 1500.

I have some vivid memories about the Green River that will never leave me:

I remember sitting in the eddy above Zwick’s with Nate on about our 7th run of the river. We both had wide eyes and said, “I like to get this one over with.”

I remember watching Glenn LaPlant run Gorilla, and making it look so easy that I thought I should try it. Glenn has a gift for the feel of water, and he’s given the gift of friendship to me.

I remember paddling with Eric Young the day after 9/11. The river was empty, and he walked Gorilla for the first time in years. He was nervous about doing the rock slide back into the river.

I remember wanting to walk Hammer Factor on my first run, and Bobbie Pfister saying, “Not an option brother.”. Bobbie described every necessary paddle stroke to make it down the Narrows in control that day.

I remember running the river with Blake one day, and seeing Katie and Tommy sitting on a small ledge above Rapid Transit with a boat on a rope.

I remember the big guy, Drew, telling me was very nervous one day because he was using a conventional paddle instead of hand paddling.

I remember finding a baby box turtle that had fallen onto a 2 inch ledge right above Scream Machine.

I remember Chris Flanders mother hiking in to watch us on Mother’s Day. Last year, Chris had to buy me a beer because of that.

I remember Bobbie showing the little tree with moss growing out of the wall below the Monkey. That was where I felt Gods presence.

I remember seeing the rainbow in the mist below sunshine and being laughed at while someone said, “He sees rainbows EVERYWHERE “.

I remember Brooks snagging a water snake barehanded and freaking out about 5 other boaters.

I remember the turtles above Hammer Factor. They run that rapid once every 3 years or so, because it takes them that long to carry back up.

About 52 years ago, one of the greatest baseball players in the history of the game, Lou Gehrig, spoke to thousands of well wishers in Yankee Stadium. He too, had been stricken with the horrible disease, ALS, which would also become known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease . In his speech, he spoke words that have echoed through history: Today…I feel like the luckiest man on the face of this Earth .

I also feel like the luckiest man on Earth. Certainly not because my body is slowly being imprisoned by ALS, but because I am blessed to have a huge number of the truest, most loyal, and compassionate friends anyone could hope for.

Most people feel fortunate if they can count their closest friends on one hand. Through this experience, I’ve learned I have dozens – maybe hundreds of people who care enough to write to me, pray for me, visit me, and keep me in their hearts. I’ve heard from people all over the U.S. and Europe who have heard my story.

I would have loved nothing more than to participate in the race on today. I’d love to be healthy and ride or paddle on behalf of another stricken person. But I know that many people who are doing this event have me – and my spirit – in their heart.

That’s what counts…

Thank you all for being here, and keeping my spirit in your hearts and minds. Please think of me every now and then as you run an amazing river or ride a beautiful road.

~Jerry