Campaign aims to build memorial bench to honour longtime Edmonton running coach

·2 min read
Frank McNamara died in December. He was 85. (Submitted by Frank McNamara Cross Country Race Series - image credit)
Frank McNamara died in December. He was 85. (Submitted by Frank McNamara Cross Country Race Series - image credit)

Ross McNamara remembers his father, Frank, as an ultra-competitive and ultra-generous man.

His family says Frank McNamara died after testing positive for COVID-19 in late December. He was 85.

Frank McNamara founded and coached the cross-country running team and the Nordic ski team at NAIT, where he worked for more than 30 years in the electronics service department. Ross said his father gave an immense amount of his time to athletics in the city, and called him a selfless volunteer.

"He was always, always helping out. It was just his passion in life. Absolute passion," Ross said.

One of Frank's many missions was the Frank McNamara Cross Country Race Series, which took place every spring and fall. The first event in latest iteration was supposed to be May 12 in Dawson Park but it's been postponed due to rising COVID-19 cases in the province.

This spring series was supposed to act as a fundraiser for a memorial bench in Frank's name. The location the family has settled on is at 86th Street and Jasper Avenue, which overlooks river valley trails Frank used to run.

While the series has been postponed, they are still accepting donations to build the bench and honour a man who helped so many athletes in Edmonton.

"I'm absolutely thrilled with the idea. I think it's fantastic," Ross said. "[My dad] affected not just hundreds, but thousands of people."

Frank was an avid runner, skiier, and all-around athlete, according to his family.
Frank was an avid runner, skiier, and all-around athlete, according to his family.(Submitted by Frank McNamara Cross Country Race Series)

The race series would draw hundreds every year. Last spring, the races were cancelled entirely. This past fall, the event went ahead with a COVID-safe staggered start method.

Race director Brian O'Neill said he wasn't surprised by the cancellation but he's hopeful they'll reach their goal and that the races will go ahead this summer. They still need about $1,500 for the bench, out of a $5,000 goal.

"I think outside we're definitely a little safer, but I know we have to follow the government's guidelines on it," he said Monday.

"If it's a different format, I'm okay with that. As long as we can keep moving forward."

People can donate to the bench fund the same way they register for the race series, through the Frank McNamara Spring X-Country Series Race Roster event page. As of Monday,