Ridgefield Half Marathon: Memorial bench is reminder of Favier’s efforts
A memorial bench might seem a static way to honor a person known for his devotion to organizing road races. But when you consider that runners can use the bench to catch their breath at the end of this Sunday’s annual half marathon in Ridgefield, then it makes perfect sense.
Rick Favier was all about helping others — people in general, fellow runners in particular.
“Rick was the most selfless person I’ve met,” said Kathy Barry, a Ridgefield resident who met Favier through the Wolfpit Running Club. “He was one of the few who would actually do anything for anybody.”
Following Favier’s death in February — from complications of diabetes at age 66 — Barry was among the many former Wolfpit members who met to discuss how best to honor the man who joined the club during its inaugural year (1977) and went on to serve as president and chief director of its signature event, the half marathon.
“The bench wasn’t our first idea,” Barry said. “But then someone mentioned that when Frank Dolan (another longtime Wolfpit member) passed, Rick had a bench made and put at the old high school. So we thought it would be nice to honor Rick with his own bench.”
A dedication ceremony took place in June outside the Ridgefield Boys & Girls Club on Governor Street, where the memorial bench now presides. The spot has symbolism: It is near the finish line of both the half marathon and the Turkey Trot 5K, a Thanksgiving Day race benefiting the Boys & Girls Club at which Favier volunteered.
Favier’s affable, gregarious demeanor belied a childhood dotted with sadness and uprooting. His father died when Favier was five years old, and his mother became ill and went into a nursing facility after Favier finished eighth grade. Without a parent at home, Favier moved from Needham, Mass., to Ridgefield to live with his older sister, graduating from Ridgefield High School in 1970.
He stayed in Ridgefield, working as a roofer while attending college at Western Connecticut State University. In 1977, Favier became one of the earliest members of the Wolfpit Running Club, which met for weekend fun runs and began organizing races in Ridgefield and Wilton — the group’s name comes from the street (Wolfpit) in Wilton where its 15-mile race ended.
Favier became an owner in Athlete’s Foot stores and an avid runner, competing in more than 30 marathons (including Boston and New York City), 20 triathlons (two Ironman events) and numerous 30K trail races while also organizing the Ridgefield half marathon and volunteering at various races throughout the Northeast.
Much of Favier’s work was done sight unseen.
“He would be out there painting the mile markers on the half marathon course before sunrise so that they would be dry when cars drove over them,” said Tom Nash, a longtime friend and Wolfpit runner. “Rick had this incredible volunteer spirit about him.”
“One of my fondest memories of Rick is when he and I went to Cape Cod to certify the course for the Falmouth Road Race,” said Jim Gerweck, a fellow Wolfpit member and race organizer who coaches the Wilton High boys cross country and track teams. “We stayed at different places up there and Rick picked me up at 4 a.m. on the morning of the race and we measured the course on bikes while wearing headlamps. I made the mistake of running in the race after that; Rick was smart and volunteered at a water station.”
Although knee problems curtailed Favier’s own running in the mid-1990s — and led him to start a car livery service to avoid standing at work — he continued to organize and assist at races. Two years ago, he and longtime friend and Wolfpit member John Dugdale decided to step away as race directors for the half marathon, turning the event over to Megan Searfoss, the founder of the Run Like A Mother 5K series. Favier still volunteered at the 13.1-mile race, of course.
“That was just his nature,” said his wife, Diane, who grew up across the street from Favier in Needham and reconnected with him online years later — the two were married in the early 2000s and lived in Milford and then Southbury. “After Rick died I received all these letters from people I had never met, writing about things he had done for them, like driving them somewhere and then “forgetting” to charge them. He was an underground nice guy.”
If Favier’s spirit makes an appearance at Sunday’s half marathon, you can bet it won’t be on the bench named in his honor. He would rather save room for others to rest or untie their sneakers or meet with family members — that’s just the way he was.