First place (tie)
A Laugh That Will Live On
Shelley Glover: 1986-2004
By JASON WILDE
Wisconsin State Journal
Finally, it was
just the two of them. Father and daughter, together.
The curtain was drawn, the door closed. No more doctors
administering tests, no more nurses drawing blood. And there, in the dark, Rich
Glover held his daughter as best he could, the memories washing over him.
There Shelley was, 3 years old, on skis for the first time
at Cascade Mountain, wearing her little pink snowsuit.
There she was, probably 10 or 11, swimming the breaststroke
at the Shorewood Hills pool, working toward the all-city meet.
There she was, a freshman at Madison West, starting on the two-time defending
state champs' soccer team.
There she was, a few months and many family discussions
later, making the big move to Burke Mountain Academy in Vermont, to pursue her
ski racing dream.
There she was, just this past February, swooshing down Blue Mountain
in Georgian Peaks, Ontario, in the North American Cup Finals, finishing fifth
in the slalom, her specialty.
There she was, home in Madison a few days before those
races, going to a mid-winter dance at West, breathtaking in her black strapless
And now, here she was, next to him, gone. The doctors had
pronounced her brain dead at 10:50 a.m., and now it was close to midnight. He'd been sitting there for what felt like forever – his wife, Carmella, and
older daughter, Bonnie, had left the hospital hours ago – just waiting.
Waiting for the surgeons to come get her to harvest – oh,
what an awful word – her organs. Waiting for all the recipients to be found.
Waiting to say goodbye.
And that's when it hit him. All those memories of Shelley,
all those unforgettable moments – that was all he had now.
"You've got this basically lifeless body in front of
you that used to just amaze you with what she could do. And you know you're
never going to have that back," he says after a deep sigh. "There
were a lot of memories going through my mind, a lot of things coming back to
"You do a lot of second-guessing, too. A lot of
what-if. What if things had been different? What if she hadn't been up there
that day? There was a lot of self-doubt on my part."
He stops, removes his wire-rimmed glasses to wipe away the
tears streaming down his cheek, and searches for the words. It's been 11 days
since Shelley's seemingly minor fall at Mount Bachelor Resort near Bend, Ore.
It's been a week since that night he sat in the intensive care unit of St.
Charles Medical Center, alone with her and his memories.
"And I still have fear," he says, "about that
• • •
didn't enter the world wearing bindings and goggles, but skiing was encoded in
her DNA. Rich and Carmella had met on the slopes in 1973, at a ski resort in
Wilmot. They married a year later, then moved to Colorado to be what Carmella
calls "hard-core ski bums." But they moved back to Madison when
Bonnie and Shelley came along.
"And as soon as we could, we put them on skis,"
The kids took to the snow immediately. When Shelley was 4,
she was still working her way up the towrope, not yet ready for the chair lift.
Carmella told her that once she could ride the lift all by herself, the family
would go to the mountains.
"I doubt she even knew what mountains were,"
Carmella remembers, smiling. "But by God, within a week, she was getting
on that chair lift all by herself."
It was only the beginning.
"I don't think there was ever really any intention that
the kids were going to ski race," Rich says. "We just wanted them to
be good enough to keep up with us so we could do some of these family
Shelley would do so much more than keep up.
• • •
Jim Tracy has
been coaching for 29 years, the last 19 with the U.S. Ski Team. Now in his
second year with the women's developmental team, he has coached a number of
Olympians, including gold medalists Tommy Moe and Picabo Street.
"And Shelley was no different than them," Tracy
says. "She just needed more experience, and she could have very easily
achieved anything those guys did – maybe more."
Tracy pauses. "Shelley, in a word," he says,
At just about everything, both academically and
athletically. She'd been accepted to all three colleges – Utah, New Hampshire
and Denver – she applied to. She'd been all-city in swimming. She'd played in
the Olympic Development Program in soccer and also played at West and for the Madison
56ers club team. West coach Donal Kaehler believes she would have been playing
Division I soccer next year had she stuck with it.
"There's no doubt she was an incredible athlete,"
But after Shelley's freshman year at West, she realized she
couldn't excel in soccer and skiing simultaneously. She'd been competing in
skiing with her Tyrol Basin team, the Madison Alpine Race Team and in Junior
Olympics, while also trying to play soccer full time. And it was wearing her
With her family's support, she opted for skiing, which meant
transferring to Burke and moving to Vermont. It was a sacrifice for everyone,
but turned out to be the right decision. She made the U.S. developmental team a
year later, and went on to six top-five finishes in international-level (FIS)
races. At the time of her death, Shelley was ranked ninth in the world (No. 1
in the U.S.) in the slalom in her age group and was the 10th-ranked American
woman in the slalom regardless of age.
While Tracy admits that Shelley's chances of making the 2006
Olympics were a "long shot," he wasn't ruling her out.
"You never know," Tracy says. "But 2010?
Absolutely. I've been to five Olympics, and it was a very, very realistic goal
for her. For sure."
And yet, you'd never know it from the way she carried
herself. After making the U.S. team, she was almost embarrassed about wearing
her new team jacket on campus at Burke.
"In a lunchroom full of kids, you would never know that
she was the one on the national team," says Eric Harlow, Shelley's coach
and dorm parent at Burke. "It wasn't about the jacket she wore, it wasn't about
the (FIS) points she had. She never acted like a superstar, which she certainly
could have been."
• • •
That contagious, infectious, unmistakable laugh. That's what everybody
Two nights before Shelley's accident, Katie Hitchcock and
the rest of her U.S. teammates were watching television in the living room of a
rented house in Bend. But Shelley had a "Sex and the City" DVD she
wanted to watch, so she borrowed Hitchcock's laptop computer and curled up in
"And even with the door closed, all you heard was
Shelley laughing," Hitchcock says.
Hitchcock had heard that laugh so many times before, and she
can still hear it in her head today.
"I remember another time, I was skiing, and it was
really foggy out. You couldn't see anything," Hitchcock continues.
"Shelley was probably halfway down the hill, and I was at the top. And all
I could hear was her laughing. It was definitely distinct."
Lesley LaMasurier, Shelley's teammate on the development
team and classmate at Burke, calls it a "cackle." She heard it every
time they snuck into the Olympic training center cafeteria together to make
ice-cream sundaes. She heard it for 11 days straight when the two of them spent
the April spring break at the LaMasurier's home in Virginia.
"You know, she just had a way of making everybody
around her happy," LaMasurier says. "Whenever I picked up the phone
when I was away, I called Shelley. Every time I came back to Burke, I went
straight to her room. She was family to me. It just tears me apart that this
happened when she was 17 years old."
• • •
In his nearly
three decades of coaching, Jim Tracy had seen so much worse than what he saw on
the morning of May 5.
"Believe me, I've seen plenty of really, really
terrible crashes, and I've seen kids get up and walk away from them," Tracy
says. "That's why it's so hard. I've seen kids fall like that hundreds of
Scheduled to leave the next morning for North Carolina,
Shelley was the only skier working with Tracy and four other coaches that
Wednesday morning on Mount Bachelor's Coffee Run. Shelley was planning to join
her fellow Burke seniors on a class trip, which included volunteer work with
Habitat for Humanity and a trip to the beach, and her flight was leaving early
Thursday. That meant getting a few hours of work in while her teammates had the
She was negotiating a series of rolls at a relatively low
speed when she lost her balance and lurched forward, hitting her head on the
hard-packed snow. Although she was wearing a helmet, she was knocked
unconscious by the impact.
Tracy says he was 10 feet away when Shelley went down, and
he was at her side in seconds. The ski patrol responded within minutes, and a
medical helicopter and ambulance were dispatched immediately. They would have
Shelley at the hospital within 35 minutes of the fall.
But as she was being loaded onto the helicopter, Shelley
vomited because of the head trauma. She aspirated, sending her into cardiac
arrest. Without a suction device on the helicopter to clear her airway, it
wasn't until Shelley arrived at the hospital that doctors were able to revive
her. She was without a pulse for about eight minutes, doctors told her mother.
• • •
The phone rang
at the Glovers' near-West Side home around 11 o'clock that morning, and
Carmella answered. Rich, a civil engineer for Planning Design Build Inc., was
in Wisconsin Dells on a project when Carmella called him to relay the news.
Unaware of the severity of Shelley's injuries, Rich hurried home, then took
Carmella to the airport to catch the flight the U.S. Olympic Committee had
arranged for her. USOC sports psychologist Jim Bauman met Carmella in Denver to
accompany her to Oregon, and their flight arrived about 11:30 that night. Carmella went straight to the hospital.
"Even though I've been a nurse for 27 years, I walked
in her room and I saw all the equipment ..." Carmella says, her voice
trailing off. Then, she starts over. "I was prepared to take her home to Madison
and take care of her. But it wasn't until they said to me 'critical condition'
and that 'she would die if we transferred her' that it struck me. This was the
Rich arrived in Oregon Thursday night, and while Shelley was
on a ventilator, he was still hopeful. But the combination of the lack of
oxygen and trauma to her brain had caused it to swell, raising the intracranial
pressure. Doctors couldn't relieve it. By Friday evening, Rich says, it was
clear that "she wasn't going to recover."
The Glovers still don't know whether Shelley would have
survived had she just suffered the head injury and not aspirated. "I
certainly don't have all the questions answered," says Rich, who last
Sunday morning toured the site of Shelley's fall. "We're still waiting for
Shelley's teammates, meanwhile, had no idea of the severity
of her injuries. They even practiced the day after the crash.
"Saturday morning, we got to the hospital, and (Bauman)
said, 'I'm not going to sugarcoat it. We need to go in and say our goodbyes to
Shelley, because she's not going to make it.'" Hitchcock recalls.
"And we all had this blank stare on our faces like, 'This can't be
The team joined Carmella, Rich and Bonnie at Shelley's
bedside. But while the rest of her teammates wandered in and out of the room, Hitchcock
stayed. "Just something inside me didn't want to leave," she says.
"We're family, you know?"
Doctors pronounced Shelley dead a short time later.
• • •
The line just
kept going. Around the corner, through an anteroom, down the hallway – it
seemed to stretch all the way to the Glovers' house a few blocks away.
Six days after he'd sat in that dark, lonely hospital room
with his daughter, Rich was no longer alone. Far from it. He and Carmella knew
Shelley had touched a lot of lives, but this, this was beyond comprehension.
The crowd at the funeral home for her memorial service
Friday – on what would have been Shelley's 18th birthday – was overwhelming.
The funeral home staff estimated that, during the 4-hour visitation, between
750 and 900 people had come through the doors.
The outpouring at Saturday's celebration of Shelley's life
at the Pyle Center – where reflections from her best friend, Anna Hunt Golden,
several teammates, Bonnie and Rich left the room alternately in stitches and in
tears – was just as amazing.
"I don't think I understood the impact that this was
having on people," Rich admits. He does know, though, what Shelley would
have thought. "I think she'd be wondering what all the fuss was about. But
that's just her. That's just how she was."
To honor Shelley, the Glovers established three funds in her
name – one to support the U.S. Ski Team, one at Burke Academy, and one to
promote athletics in the Madison Public School system. A beginners hill at Tyrol
Basin will be renamed "Shelley's Run."
Kirk Dwyer, the headmaster at Burke, says plans are in the
works to rename the academy's soccer field in Shelley's honor. There's also
talk about an annual memorial race with U.S. Ski Team and Burke alumni. There
will be another celebration, like Saturday's, at Burke on May 28, the day
before Shelley would have graduated.
"I've been at ski academies for 30 years, and you don't
often come across someone like Shelley who's so successful and yet so modest
and such a good person," Dwyer says. "She really reached out and was
like a big sister to a lot of kids here. The closeness of her relationships, I
was somewhat aware of it, but I've become even more aware as the kids have
talked about her this past week."
And that is what has gotten the Glovers through all this –
learning just how much Shelley had meant to so many people and knowing that her
life, tragically short as it was, ended with her doing what made her happy.
"I take solace in the fact that she died doing exactly
what she loved more than anything in the world," Carmella says. "She
absolutely loved the mountains, it was a sunny day, and she was absolutely in
heaven. How many other people get to see the whole world, travel all over,
spend their days skiing and playing soccer and swimming and meeting people all
over the world, with a smile on their face, loving every minute of it? She was
living life to the max."
• • •
You can reach Jason Wilde at 252-6176 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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