When fathers sit down with their kids on the bench at Duffy’s Point and stare out on the sparkling waters of Medical Lake, Susan Ready doesn’t want them to think about her husband.
While the polished gray granite bench carries the name Vincent “Duffy” Ready III on the back, Ready hopes people will turn their focus on the 18 sentences carefully inscribed above it – Life Lessons From Our Dad.
“We put this all together on the bench to be hope and inspiration to the kids and dads sitting there, whether it gets them to make changes or just be affirmed,” she said.
Over Father’s Day weekend last year, Duffy Ready died after collapsing during the final leg of the Medical Lake triathlon.
Even at 66, Duffy had a competitive spirit, his wife said. A frequent marathoner, Duffy had worked hard over three years to recover from a back fusion surgery – swimming, and cycling nearly 300 miles a week – until he was ready to compete.
His family had no reason to worry about Duffy, as he’d completed the sprint triathlon several times over its 31-year history, and Duffy saw it as just a warm-up for what was to come.
After his death, Ready said she found a list in his car of full triathlons he planned to run next.
Around 40 people gathered at Duffy’s Point on Friday – friends, family, and some of the first responders who had worked to save Duffy’s life – to dedicate the bench and share what it, and Duffy, meant to them.
Duffy’s eldest daughter, Holly Stokes, read aloud the lessons her father had taught her family. She fell silent for a moment, caught up by emotion as she reached one of the lessons. “Pause … and let the wind blow through your hair,” she said finally.
As Father’s Day and the triathlon – dedicated this year in Duffy’s honor – arrive again, his family doesn’t recall the races he ran, but rather the love he gave to them and to everyone in his life. Stokes said she remembers how important Duffy could make you feel, whether it was just taking the time to listen or finding little ways to show kindness.
“As kids, it was not uncommon to hear him slip out of the house when friends came over to fill up their cars with gas,” she said. “He got a kick out of doing things like that.”
Stokes said Duffy also taught his children by example, like how he romanced his wife throughout their 42-year marriage.
When their eldest son Troy was 9 months old, Susan Ready recalled she would take him to chat with other mothers and their babies over $1 burgers at Burger King. One day, Duffy showed up unannounced and said he had brought her some dessert. He reached into a sack and pulled out a pineapple. Attached: two airline tickets for a 10-day vacation to Hawaii.
“It was unique to watch our parents in love like that,” Stokes said.
While Stacey Johnston-Gleason wasn’t Duffy’s daughter, he was a father to her, she said.
Johnston-Gleason began working for Duffy more than two decades ago as an aide at his private physical therapy clinic, the Institute of Sports Medicine. During the 11 years she worked for him, and throughout their friendship for years after, Johnston-Gleason said Duffy always was there for her.
On days they had an early start, he would pick her up from the bus stop at 1 a.m., and Johnston-Gleason – who has an intellectual disability and has participated in the Special Olympics for 32 years – said he even came with the team for her to the World’s Game in 1995 as medical staff.
Johnston-Gleason only knew her own father for two years before he died, and she said Duffy stepped up as a father figure to fill that void for her.
“He was a special person. To see him around his kids and people … it’s truly hard to explain,” she said. “He did a lot for me, and I don’t know where I’d be without him.”
Brooke Johnson, the Readys’ youngest child, said that without donations from the community and the support of the triathlon’s director, her father’s legacy could have never been so honored. Several of those who attended the dedication, including many members of the family, will be participating in the triathlon this year, wearing bright yellow shirts emblazoned with the words Team Duffy.
And, with the small bench ensconced in a quiet spot on the lake, Johnson said she hopes Duffy will continue to impact people.
“I just hoped people would take an inward look and try and be a better person,” she said. “It’s not too late to be this amazing parent, an amazing dad.”
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