Elderly man finds Olympic trials fill-in for late wife

Chris Chase
Fourth-Place Medal

Donn Kirk and his wife Doris attended four U.S. Olympic track and field trials, seven world championships and countless collegiate meets during their 45-year marriage. Naturally, when it was announced the 2012 trials would return to nearby Heyward Field at the University of Oregon, they bought tickets for every day and planned to be in their usual spot -- in the handicapped section of the West Grandstand, halfway down the homestretch.

Then, four weeks ago, Doris unexpectedly died in her sleep. Donn misses her, of course. But he wasn't going to let his grief keep him from doing something he and his wife loved. He was going to the Olympic trials. He just needed a new friend to go with.

Because his tickets were in the handicapped section -- necessary because of Doris' failing health of the previous years -- Donn thought it was only right to bring someone who could use those seats.

"I miss my wife," he told George Schroeder of Eugene's Register-Guard, "but I would like to have a substitute for her who was enjoying it as much as she would."

In order to find one, Donn placed an ad in the classifieds section. "My wife died recently, in her stead, I am willing to take one local handicapped man or woman to the Olympic Trials starting June 22," he wrote. "I have wheelchair and ticket."

Kirk listed his phone number. Then he waited. The 80-year-old expected the calls to come pouring in. Only one did.

So on Saturday, Donn will pick up 53-year-old Dana Woodall and they'll go to Heyward Field and sit in the seats that Donn was supposed to be in with his wife. It'll be a big change from all those other meets when Donn sat side-by-side with Doris. At least he won't have to do it alone.

Read more about Donn and Dana's story on the Register-Guard's website.

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