by Thom Van Vleck
I was recently at an event and one of the other competitors reached over and pull out a medal I had hanging around my neck. He wanted to know what it represented. It is a medal that I’ve worn in every competition I’ve been in or at least been on between lifts or events. It’s been dipped in the waters of the Atlantic Ocean, the Pacific, the Gulf of Mexico, the North Sea, the Irish Sea, Mississippi River, Columbia River, Missouri River….even Loch Ness and other places I have traveled and competed.
It is a medal my Uncle Wayne Jackson won the year I was born. The story goes that he went to the meet and won this medal. He would have been around 21 years old and in the midst of a great run of winning Olympic lifting events in the Midwest that included a Teenage National Title and 5 Missouri State Championships. Wayne came back from the meet ready to show off his “winnings”. He had been unable to reach anyone by phone and since this was the days before answering machines and cell phones….if you weren’t there to answer the phone you missed the call! So he had not been able to tell anyone about winning.
When Wayne arrived at home the house was empty and there was no note or other information on where everyone had went! He was a little concerned and a little disappointed that he had not been able to share his victory with his family. Then my Grandmother showed up and told him that he needed to get down to the hospital as his sister had her baby. Which was me of course! He told me I had upstaged him!
From as early as I can remember my Uncle Wayne was a part of my life. As a kid he would pick me up and throw me high in the air. We would wrestle and he would take me out hunting arrowheads. He never had any children of his own and he became a second father to me. My kids are like his grand kids. Obviously, he’s the main reason I got into weight training and in doing so he may have saved my life. At the least, my life has been much better for getting into lifting. Over the years he is the first person I call after a contest and he’s also kept up to date on my workouts. He’s always quick with a compliment and slow to criticize. He has also been an inspiration to me for his faith in God and using his strength not to intimidate others but protect those that needed protecting.
There came a time when he wanted me to have this medal. I’m sure it’s not worth much but it’s priceless to me. It represents our friendship and love for one another. It represents a passing of the torch in the Jackson Weightlifting Club. It reminds me of him and when he’s not able to be there with me I feel like he’s there. It is better than gold to me.