If masters track had a Hall of Fame for Spouses, Linda Sheldon Pain would be a charter inductee. The second wife of the late founder of our niche sport, Linda married David Pain in 1979. David’s first wife, Helen, was critical to spreading the movement via her travel agency and help with the U.S. Masters International Track Team.
But Linda was key as the prime supporter of David and being active in the Senior Olympics circuit. When David couldn’t speak, she spoke for him. When he could barely move, she made him comfortable, setting him up for hospice care in their home near San Diego State University.
Linda was a saint.
Now she is with our Columbus.
Linda’s daughter Dara Shearen informed me this week that her mom — battling dementia — had passed away Oct. 11. (Basic details here.) Dara moved her to the Fresno area to be with her. Only 10 days earlier, I helped Dara clean out the Pains’ storage unit in San Diego’s Mission Valley, taking a dozen bankers boxes worth of his awards and masters memorabilia home with me. Much of it is already online, having been scanned many years ago for mastershistory.org.
The boxes — including film reels of major masters meets — will eventually be kept in the care of Jeff Davison, our Masters Historical Committee chairman.
But back to Linda.
Dara says she’s thinking of holding a memorial service for her in the spring, since “she loved that time of year.”
Dara wrote me: “It is so nice she is being remembered for her time with the masters. She was very dedicated and I remember the countless hours she worked beside David. … She was a very special person.”
Dara also is hopeful that someone might be interested in organizing either a running, cycling or triathlon event in remembrance of David.
“He was truly an inspiration for so many,” Dara said. “I will always cherish the many cycling adventures we shared throughout the years and the inspiration he gave me to run a marathon, ultramarathon and triathlon while in my 40s. Hoping someone might be interested.”
When Dara informed me about Linda, she said she died very peacefully on a Tuesday morning.
“I miss her terribly, but gives me comfort knowing she is in a better place now,” Dara wrote.
My favorite story about Linda is how we collaborated to honor David on the 40th anniversary of his first masters nationals in San Diego.
In April 2008, I wrote her about my idea of having David get recognition at Spokane masters nationals that year.
I know it would be a wonderful thing for David if he could get to Spokane. It would certainly give him a goal to look forward to. … We have decided not to attend the Olympic Trials in Eugene. It might prove to be too taxing to make the drive and then the daily commute to the stadium. He would need a seat at the stadium that didn’t involve many steps and that couldn’t be guaranteed.
He got the nasty cold that was going around in January and has taken him a long time to get his zip back. It really took the starch out of him this time. No pneumonia, though, so he was lucky this time. Last January he had two bouts with pneumonia so it took months to recover.
Going back to physical therapy is next on the agenda for David. When the weather warms up a little more, we plan to swim regularly at the Sports Medicine facility where he gets physical therapy. That should also help with getting strength back without causing a problem with his bad knee. As for now, we just go day by day and hope for gradual improvement.
I also got USATF Masters Track Committee to fund the Linda-David trip to Spokane. Then-Chairman Gary Snyder wrote me: “MTF has voted to approve reimbursement not to exceed $1,200.”
Not long before the meet, Linda wrote: “David is on some new medicine and is having a little adjusting to do. Today he’s better so I think by Thursday he should be OK. The only thing I’m concerned about is sun and heat. I guess we’ve turned a bit fragile because of San Diego’s salubrious climate! And to think I lived in Phoenix for six years!”
Here’s how I reported the event:
It was magical and memorable and more. Tonight’s Athlete Banquet at the Northern Quest Casino west of Spokane drew 400 athletes, friends, families and officials. In a room with four screens tied to one computer system, Linda Pain presented a slide show of her husband David Pain’s life, and as David went up on stage after the narrated picture show, he got a standing ovation as the masters nationals marked their 40th anniversary. David, 86, read a letter from WMA President Monty Hacker of South Africa honoring North America for landing the 2010 indoor worlds in Kamloops, British Columbia, and the 2011 outdoor worlds in Sacramento.
Then USATF Masters T&F Chairman Gary Snyder presented David a plaque noting the 40th anniversary of the first San Diego nationals in 1968, And then I presented a second plaque on behalf of the athletes for his distinguished service as our “founding father.”
Finally, WMA VP Rex Harvey gave Dave a huge white banner with the multi-colored WAVA logo and lettering as a keepsake. Then Dave Clingan handed out awards to several dozen 2007 athletes of the year, we had a dinner of salmon, steak, potatoes and steamed veggies. And we danced the night away to a five-piece band.
After the Spokane athletes banquet, where David climbed stairs to the stage by himself, Linda wrote me in November:
Your comment about David’s efforts to get stronger for the trip is excellent because it was a great motivator for him. After we got the official invitation to attend in Spokane, I talked to the physical therapists at the Alvarado Sports Medicine facility about how I could help him gain strength and work on his balance issues.
David had been in previous physical therapy but what he needed to do in the therapy was bothering his bum knee. Since he can’t have knee replacement surgery, I came up with the idea of having him do his therapy in the heated lap pool. The therapist was very happy about that solution, so David and I were allowed to come in whenever we could to use the pool. He and I spent many hours going back and forth in the pool using various techniques that would help with balance and strength.
The only thing discouraging for David was that he desperately wanted to swim since he was a good swimmer in the past, but unfortunately, whether from the stroke or the [bike] crash, he was unable to coordinate his legs to swim.
I have high praise for the staff at the Alvarado center because we were allowed to come in whenever we wanted and were very encouraging in my efforts with David. If you are ever in need of physical therapy, they are highly recommended in my estimation. I had used them previously for a bad shoulder and hip and was treated very well. That’s probably why they allowed me such latitude in working with David.
Now that cool weather has set in and the outdoor pool isn’t as comfortable, we may join the Kroc center and use their pool facilities.
In May 2010, Linda wrote me again:
David has been suffering more from headaches. Most of the time they’re about 4 or 5 on a scale of 0 to 10, but Saturday he said it was an 8. Also, the vertigo is always present on a scale of about 5. That has to be miserable but he manages to cope. We appreciate your keeping us informed about masters T&F because now that David is no longer involved either participating or administering, we don’t get in on what’s really happening. I know he misses being involved but right now his strength is taken with just coping day to day.
I hope he feels better during the summer. As soon as the weather warms up, he will be getting water physical therapy at the Alvarado Sports Medicine fitness center. I used the center in pool therapy when David was getting his strength up for the Spokane trip. His physician agrees it was a great idea. We just have to schedule the therapy in between his skin cancer surgeries. Busy times ahead.
In July 2011, Linda helped David make the trip to Sacramento worlds — where he was honored at the General Assembly and singly by the greatest athletes from around the world as Linda pushed his wheelchair.
She wrote me beforehand: “Winston Thomas, WMA secretary, said he thought there was an air conditioned place at the track that might be available for viewing some of the competition. I’ll check into that when we arrive. I think being outside, even under shade, in any heat might be a problem for David at this point. We’ll have to see what the situation is after we arrive. It is hot and HUMID in San Diego right now so Sacramento will probably not be quite so humid in spite of the heat.”
After the world meet, Linda wrote me: “David has been subjected to more skin cancer surgery and is pretty well sliced and diced too much for his comfort level these days. We’re both a little tired right now. More to come in October but after that I hope he can have a little rest from the procedures.
We still look back at the eventful time we had at Sacramento. Thanks to your looking out for us; field position under the canopy, introductions, chauffeur service, etc. You made the trip possible and enjoyable. We really do appreciate greatly all you did for us in making the event very special for David (and me!).”
In November 2014, Linda was David’s voice at a San Diego Track Club event.
Now Linda’s voice is stilled. I’ll miss her ever-smiling demeanor.
Contribute to support independent track and field journalism: