Thursday, August 6, 2015

They said it: Reflections on the late Bob Timmons

Former Kansas University track coach Bob Timmons is pictured in this file photo from March 24, 1972. (AP Photo/William P. Straeter)

Former Kansas University track coach Bob Timmons is pictured in this file photo from March 24, 1972. (AP Photo/William P. Straeter)


Bob Timmons died on Tuesday night at the age of 91. Here are some tributes from former athletes and friends of the former KU track coach. Thanks to Tim Weaver for sharing some of the comments he compiled during his tenure as Kansas Relays meet director.

"Bob Timmons was a man who mentored many, remained consistent in his personal values and saw no finish line when it comes to ambition. He helped me define my own determination at a time in my life that I needed it. He knew it, I didn’t. He never coached me in track and field but he certainly did in life. As a professional working in the Fieldhouse, Timmie would visit me weekly to talk about MY goals. Ironic that track and field was secondary for Timmie. First came self discovery and finding your fire.  If he happened to catch you not utilizing your full potential he wouldn’t shy away from reminding you. Always accountable.”

— Candace Dunback, Director of Traditions - K Club and Booth Family Hall of Athletics and former KU record holder in heptathlon

"It’s hard to put into words what coach Timmons meant to me. Our lives were intertwined from the moment Timmie stood up during the fall of 1962 at the Wichita East sophomore orientation and introduced me to the sport of cross country, a sport I had never heard of before. But in typical coach fashion, he inspired me to take the risk and try a new sporting adventure. During his tenure at East High he encouraged and inspired hundreds of us to get out of our comfort zone and to dream big.

“That dreaming big became a reality for me when Coach called me to the front of the bus during the spring of 1963 for one of his ‘Timmie Talks.’ While I'd just run a 4:21 mile, coach challenged me to become the first high school boy to run the mile in less than four minutes. He was the big dreamer imparting his dream for me — I was to take ownership of it. Together we accomplished the goal the night of June 4, 1964. That evening opened for me a world of possibility that helped this shy, slight boy from Wichita achieve things I would never have dreamed I could achieve.

“Perhaps for me the greatest moment we shared together was when Timmie knelt and accepted Christ in my living room on Easter morning in 1983. Most of my life he had been coach and mentor, then a friend and that morning, a brother.

“While the leaving from this life to the next is always hard, there are many great memories to celebrate as I think of Timmie today and some of the grief is softened by the knowledge that we will see each other again.

Suffice it to say, he meant a lot to me and my family and to the Jayhawk nation. He will be missed, but most of all, and perhaps best of all, he will be celebrated for a life well lived.”

— Jim Ryun, Olympic distance runner

"When coach Timmons heard of my calf injuries he volunteered to help me cross train in the pool. He would meet me at 5:30 a.m. with workouts to get me ready for Nationals. He is so generous with his time and knowledge – he darn near killed me in the pool – but it worked! He’s a special man that I admire and respect greatly.”

— Kristi Kloster Burritt, Class of 1996

"An average hurdler/pole vaulter on a national championship team in 1968, I was not going to the dual meet at UCLA on “Jim Ryun’s Team”. I asked Timmie if I could go in the 440 hurdles. He said “No.” I set up my own time trial and made coach Mitchell time me. Timmie made the “faster” hurdlers run against my time. No one could beat my time. The next day, Timmie hands me my plane ticket and itinerary for the meet 3 days later in L.A.”

— Michael Geiger, Class of ’71

"A great coach BT. An even greater person!”

— Jim Hershberger, Class of 1953

“Timmie didn’t tolerate foul language. If you said something crude you were doing pushups! Another fond memory was riding in the back of his light blue pickup as he sped out in the country to drop the cross country team off for practice.”

— Mark Killen Class of 1982

“Coach Timmons introduced me to the Student Relays Committee and said to them “You all know that I don’t approve of drinking or bars, but Paul Titus wants to open and own one and I believe this would be okay.” Timmie also helped me realize that there was more to life than jumping over a bar. And if I was going to truly be successful; I had to apply myself in all areas, work, school, relationships and track.”

— Paul Titus Class of 1982

“Bob Timmons was interested in his athletes like a father. He wanted his team of young men to be successful as students, athletes and in their conduct. Both our team’s appearance and conduct were very important to Coach Timmons, as a group and as individuals.”

— Dennis Stewart Class of 1970

“Bob Timmons was my sophomore and junior basketball and track coach at Caldwell High School in 1950 through 1952. I believe it was his first job and it was a privilege to have been able to compete under him. I will always remember his short grin if he thought you did well or that different little grin if he thought you could have done better. It was apparent at that time, that greater opportunities would await Bob Timmons and that he would become a truly great coach.”

— Edwin Petrick, M.D. Class of 1957

“Timmie came after I graduated but shortly after he came he sent me my two cross-country All-American certificates. Since I was unaware that I had earned them it was a wonderful surprise. His note with the certificates was most gracious and I will always remember his thoughtfulness.”

— Jerry McNeal Class of 1959

“Taking us on “the roads” in his old blue Chevy pick up.”

— LTC Bob Garven Class of 1980

“My memories of Timmie are that he always taught values.”

— Billy Mills Class of 1962

“I remember running the crowflight marathon that coach Timmons would have for the break between cross country and indoor. We were dropped off in teams of four on a 26 mile radius of Lawrence at 7:00 a.m. and we didn’t get back to Lawrence until 6:00 p.m. The temperature had dropped about 30 degrees and we were all very hungry and tired by the time we got to his house.”

— Karen (Fitz) Homan Class of 1979

“Bob “Timmie” was one of the best when it came to detail and organization as a coach and meet director. All divisions were colored coded for all events for the officials and other personnel. Always doing that little extra to help people and make the Relays great.”

— Former Wichita State coach Herm Wilson

“He always reminded me of the Energizer bunny. He just keeps going, and going, and going.”

— Tom Roberts Class of 1978

“Yes, being short and light weight, how hard he tried to stretch and gain weight for the Marines in WWII. A great man who is a fraternity brother.”

— W.C. Hartley Class of 1944

“Timmie refusing to pay his debt of doing pushups even after heart surgery. Inspired you to compete at another level just by his little smirk.”

— Brett Fuller Class of 1989

“I was just a walk on discus thrower but coach Timmons treated me as well as everyone else with dignity and respect. He took the time and interest to help me do my very best.”

— Rex Arthur Class of 1976

“After cross country season was over in the mid ‘70s Timmie would organize the “crow flight” marathon. I was lucky enough to participate one year. It was quite an experience. We were in teams of four runners. Timmie using his house as the center drew a half circle map of the area surrounding Lawrence. All points on the half circle were 26 mile 385 yards from his house. They put the map on the wall of his office and we had a meeting where we all met in his office and each team was shown the spot on that half circle where we would start. Then we could look for landmarks (rivers, railroad track, etc.) that we could use to guide us back to the house. We could take food, water and anything else we felt like carrying. The day of the race the teams were driven out to the starting spots and dropped off. It was a cool day in November. Some teams ran the whole way and made it back about four hours. My team walked and jogged and we took about nine hours. When we got back to Timmie’s house his wife Pat had made a big pot of chili and there were a lot of snack foods. Timmie’s team walked the whole way and was the last team to get back. That was one long day. My team got off course for a while and figure we walked and jogged maybe 35-40 miles that day. I’d never want to do it again but I’m glad I did it once to experience it.”

— Debbie (Hertzog) Harter Class of 1982

“The work outs on the country roads around Lawrence, chasing the old Chevy pickup with Timmie’s arm and stop watch extended out the window, on long distance runs “see you guys in Lawrence tonight-no hitch hiking!” the crow flight marathon, and his enthusiasm and encouragement.”

— James E. Peterson M.D. Class of 1975

“I spent many a long night with Timmie in his office discussing the meet and how and what we could do to make it better. No one can ever match his enthusiasm and love of the Relays especially at 10PM at night.”

— Ann Fame Class of 1983


Titus Canby 6 years, 10 months ago

For those of you who weren't around then, track & field was a big deal in the late 60s and early 70s. Especially at KU. It didn't have the cachet of KU Basketball, but it was big. The Relays would sell out some years. And Coach Timmons was the leader. Great guy and great coach who focused on instilling values and responsibility, at a time when that was just uncool. He's a legend. We'll miss you Coach.

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