Vyto Starinskas / Staff Photo
Paula Lannon, left, and Joan Crowley hold up a long-lost trophy won by Olympian Frank Crowley for a Rutland-to-Proctor race in 1928.
The late Frank Crowley was a Vermont treasure. Some might say the 1932 Olympian and All-American long distance runner was a lost treasure, when you realize he was somehow left off the list when Sports Illustrated compiled its top 50 Vermont sports figures of the 20th century.
Another lost treasure was recently uncovered in Michigan. Frank Crowley’s grandson, Tim Hertler, was cleaning his attic in Traverse City when he found a superbly crafted trophy from the 1929 road race that started in Proctor and finished 6 miles later at the Marble Bank in downtown Rutland.
Crowley, a Rutland High School distance runner that year, won the race with a time of 34 minutes, 7 seconds, 10 feet ahead of John Minnoch, who had been a distance runner for St. Lawrence University.
That victory signaled great things for Crowley. He placed eighth in the 1,500 meters at the Olympic Games in Los Angeles in 1932 and his running exploits would land him in the Manhattan College Hall of Fame.
Crowley has not been forgotten in his native Rutland. The road race continues from Proctor to Rutland and still finishes in front of the same bank. Only today it is named the Crowley Brothers Memorial Road Race and has been grown by Rutland’s Mike and Paula Lannon to the point it includes a number of other events around the 10-K race, including a half-marathon, a seminar, a 5k race and a Kids’ Downtown Mile.
Hertler had followed the race somewhat online so when he made the discovery in his home he looked up a contact number for the event and emailed the Lannons to see if they would have a use for the artifact.
“He knew about the race and decided we should have the trophy here,” Paula Lannon said.
“When I got the email from him I almost tipped my laptop over. I had been trying to collect memorabilia ever since we started this race,” she said. “This has rekindled the spirit to go after some.”
When the package arrived via UPS at the Lannon home on Catherine Street in Rutland, it might as well have been Christmas.
“When I took it out of the box, it was so much more than what I was expecting,” Paula said as she lifted the heavy hardware with the cast iron base. “The detail is phenomenal. What a treasure.”
This might only be the beginning. Hertler believes he can find more as he searches through boxes left unpacked after a move.
“I know I have other stuff,” he said. “I think I have his USA uniform from the 1932 Olympics somewhere in a plastic tube.”
Paula wants to make certain these pieces of history are displayed in a fashion for others to enjoy. She will get a shadow box to protect the trophy.
She has a permanent display in mind with plans to bring it out on race day, which this year is June 9.
Hertler also believes his grandfather’s late brother Joe had a large scrapbook chronicling Frank’s feats.
The Crowley Brothers Memorial Road Race is named for brothers Frank, Larry and Joe. They were prominent in Rutland.
The race is steeped in tradition and owes its origin to a challenge between Frank Crowley and seven-time Boston Marathon winner Clarence DeMar to race one another from Proctor to Rutland. The story is they raced from someplace on Route 3 in Proctor to the Mount St. Joseph Academy football field, with Crowley winning the race — quite a feat for a high schooler, matched up against an Olympic bronze medalist.
DeMar is not the last Boston winner to make his mark at the Crowley. Bill Rodgers, a four-time winner of the Boston Marathon, still runs the Crowley Brothers Memorial Road Race. He has been a fixture at the event and is expected again in the field this year.
The trophy discovery has caused excitement in the Crowley family.
“I was fascinated,” said Joan Crowley, Larry’s daughter and now living in Wallingford. “I didn’t even know this existed. This is quite a surprise.”
Frank’s daughter Frances, living in Florida, called the unearthing of the trophy “marvelous.”
It has also heightened Hertler’s excitement about the race. He plans to travel from Michigan to attend the 2014 Crowley Brothers Memorial Road Race. A previous commitment will keep him from the event this year.
“I have thought about attending it. Now I have a reason,” Hertler said.
Hertler was very close to his grandfather. He rode with him from Michigan to Rutland several times.
A disease had taken much of Frank’s mobility by that time and he operated a car with hand controls.
“I was 10 years old. He had a Ford Country Squire. He threw a map in my lap and asked me which way I wanted to go,” Hertler said.
He also vividly recalls his grandfather’s brother Joe, the man known to many as “Mr. Rutland.”
“He was a great guy,” Hertler said. “I remember in 1979 we were going to Manhattan for my grandfather’s induction into the Hall of Fame. Joe asked if I wanted to go to a Rangers game. I still regret not going.”
Twenty runners started that 1928 race from Proctor to Rutland and 19 finished.
Frank was not mentioned as one of the favorites in the Rutland Daily Herald’s preview on race day.
The event was the subject of great interest. The Herald account said, “Never before in the City of Rutland has such excitement prevailed over a road race.”
The athletes went into the armory in Rutland to change into their running clothes and were transported to Proctor by cars.
Minnoch and Arthut Tudhoppe, a four-year track man at the University of Vermont, were mentioned as favorites.
About 300 spectators were at the Proctor Inn to watch as Judge Harvey R. Kingsley officially started the race at 1:30 p.m. on that Saturday. The number of spectators lining State Street and Merchants Row for the finish was about 1,000.
When Crowley and Minnoch came into view the atmosphere was electrifying.
The Herald’s description of the scene read “such cheering has not been heard on Rutland’s main street in years.”
Crowley took home the trophy that day. Now, 85 years later, it has come back home.
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