Grandma's Marathon to honor volunteerDuluthian Don Fennessy has been one of the most valuable volunteers in the
Duluthian Don Fennessy has been one of the most valuable volunteers in the 35 years of Grandma’s Marathon, and the race organization will honor him from 5-7 p.m. today at Grandma’s Sports Garden in Canal Park.
Fennessy, 75, a retiree who worked for 30 years as a Minnesota Power community engineer, was diagnosed with cancer in September. He’s been with the race since 1980 and on the Grandma’s Marathon board of directors since the race went to a nonprofit status in 1987. He was inducted into the Grandma’s Hall of Fame in 2004.
Few have seen Grandma’s Marathon from as many angles. While most of Fennessy’s time has been spent in traffic control as a liaison with local police and public works departments, he’s also worked with aid stations, the prerace spaghetti dinner, the marathon’s annual silent auction and weekly children’s races during the summer. And he’s been involved in the clean-up of 26.2 miles of roadway from Two Harbors to Duluth.
“I’m doing some pretty routine things after the race, but you often see runners who have finished and they’re looking for someone to say thanks to. I accept the thanks on behalf of a lot of people who volunteer their time,” Fennessy said in 2004.
Fennessy, who serves as the Grandma’s Marathon board of directors secretary-treasurer, also was instrumental in the creation of the Young Athletes Foundation, a Grandma’s Marathon program assisting youth athletics in the Twin Ports and surrounding communities. He’s been a member of the Young Athletes Foundation Committee since its inception in 1990 and serves as chairperson.
Fennessy and his wife, Ella, earned the Grandma’s Marathon Volunteer of the Year Award in 1997.
“One of the best things is to volunteer together. It’s very rewarding,” said Don Fennessy.