On May 31st 2013 our good friend, mentor and community leader Danusia Bennett Taber passed away of Cancer. On May 31st 2014 we held her 1st annual memorial ride and fund raiser for the Sarcoma Alliance. The Sarcoma Alliance was the non profit organization that helped Danusia in her time of need. You can learn about her cancer here: http://losangeles.cbslocal.com/2014/05/08/fda-warns-routine-fibroid-surgery-may-spread-hidden-cancer/.
2 nights before the Memorial ride I was trying to write my speech to address everyone and honor Danusia. The CBS piece was just released and I was debating wether or not to talk about her cancer. Was this appropriate? Didn’t other women need to know what really happened and warn them? Tough call. I went back and forth and voiced my concerns to Don her husband and to my close friend Darcie who I count on for direction on many things. Writing the speech was so very hard. How do you honor your friend, tell a funny story to share with others about them, yet not be angry and sad because they were taken from us so young. I cried a lot for a few days at my laptop trying to write something, be funny and respectful.
Many of us started at DeAnza park to ride over to the Memorial Site. We had a nice group of just over 20 with many of us knowing Danusia and each other for many, many years. Some newbies joined us who heard about her and wanted to be part of the event, so I was thrilled to have them and the chance to tell them all about Danusia and her legacy.
The trail was in amazing shape right from the start. Starting off on the single track leading the pack out, I looked back and saw the line of riders and I just kept smiling knowing they were all riding for Danusia today. We had a brief mechanical on the way to the Memorial, Graham broke his chain (I saw you mashing trying to get pass me Graham!). So Jose was nice enough to stay with him until it was fixed and I went to catch up with the group to get them to the site.
I made the fun descent and was heading to the bridge starting to get sad and emotional, hoping I could hold it together for the Memorial and of course hoping the group didn’t take a wrong turn and miss it!
Just over the bridge, the group was there waiting for me. So we all rode directly to the site picking up a few riders and hikers that started from Malibu Creek State Park instead of DeAnza.
When I arrived at the Memorial site, the same place we held her service last year, there were about 40 people there. I pretty much recognized everyone and for those few I didn’t know, they came up and introduced themselves to me and told me their relationship to Danusia which was all CORBA doings. I was so happy they came out.
I started the service by welcoming everyone and letting them know we were there to honor Danusia. I briefly spoke of the CBS piece on her and her cancer. I had decided to let the piece speak for itself and people could watch the video and learn about what happened when they were ready.
I spoke of the last year and a half of Danusia’s life. This was the time I was closest to her. This is also the time she spent with me getting GGR off the ground, moving forward and in the right direction. I spoke of incredible conversations we had on the trail, at her house and in the hospital. I then talked about the bench at Danielson’s Ranch in Sycamore dedicated to her and how that was the exact same place we rode together on her last ride. She was between chemo treatments and this was a rare time she felt good enough to join us for a ride and to discuss GGR business. Myself, Darcie, Tessa & Cheryl all joined in.
Don then told us a really funny story about when he and Danusia met and how he fell for her. It was precious and funny!
Well, I catch up to Ojai Ruth, and she told me they kept going…they missed the turn! How on earth did they miss the turn?? Hmmmm….well, I called them out on the radio and let them know the plan was to go to the dam and that is where the rest of us were heading.
So us ladies take the fun trail to the dam to chill and wait for the rest of the group. We were tired, drained and over heated. Then out of the blue, I hear Tim over the radio yelling at Robert saying ROBERT CAN’T FOLLOW DIRECTION! We all busted out laughing. Leave it to the 2 men on the trail to cause the drama!
As a good friend reminded me….I know Danusia would be so very honored and proud of this day. She would be so joyous to see how GGR has grown with her blessings and how Steve Messer has done such an outstanding job taking over things with CORBA. She would be proud and smiling over us. I miss you my friend and mentor. We will continue to honor you every year on the anniversary. Next year will be at Sycamore at your beautiful bench.
As Danusia would say…….Happy Trails!
GGR Girl Wendy E