Joe Feryn always ran strong.
So when he completed a tougher-than-usual Bloomsday in 2016 he thought he was fatigued due to an iron deficiency.
But two month later, he thought something more might be wrong, went to a doctor and was diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia, a blood and bone-marrow cancer.
“With no family history, pattern of recent infection or symptomatic bruising, we’re thankful that he knows his body so well when he runs, listened to that and went to the doctor,” his wife, Angie Feryn, wrote in a CaringBridge.org blog post at the time. “Being a runner probably saved his life.”
When he started chemo, Feryn was already doing laps around the oncology floor at Deaconess Medical Center the next morning. Nurses told him 17 times around was a mile.
“He’s ready to take this on and win,” Angie wrote.
And after he received a bone-marrow transplant from his sister in Seattle that November, he sprinted toward recovery to get back to coaching for Gonzaga Prep’s spring track season.
“He came back on a Monday and was at practice on Tuesday,” Stephen Manfred, G-Prep boys track coach and girls cross country coach, told The Spokesman-Review this week.
But after two relapses, the most recent of them around Christmas, Feryn succumbed to his illness.
His family helped him cross the final finish line when he died the evening of July 5, Angie Feryn wrote on CaringBridge.org. He is survived by his wife and two sons, Adam and Colin.
Gonzaga Prep will hold a memorial service for Feryn in the Scarpelli Gymnasium on July 27 at 10 a.m. Afterward, attendees are encouraged to walk a lap around the track in his honor. There will be a reception in the Barbieri Student Center following that.
A Mead High School graduate of 1990, Feryn was a part of coach Pat Tyson’s run of nine successive cross country state championships that started in 1988.
Feryn went on to be a Division I runner as a freshman at San Jose State University. But, after he transferred to Gonzaga University, he quit competing and started coaching for G-Prep in 1993 .
In the early 2000s, he became the head boys cross country coach and head girls track coach.
“His joy and passion for running was something I will always remember,” said Manfred, who coached alongside Feryn for more than a decade.
During his battle with cancer, Feryn only missed the fall 2016 season leading up to his transplant. After that, he worked his treatment around practices.
“His coaching style and the things he expected didn’t change,” Manfred said.
Corrina O’Brien Kelsey, Gonzaga Prep’s vice president for advancement and a 2006 alumna who ran for Feryn, said she remembers him as a coach who helped athletes reach their potential any way he could.
“There was a balance of care, and also he pushed you,” O’Brien Kelsey said. “He had high expectations.”
The same went for how he interacted with students who came to see him as a counselor, a job he started in 2007. Most recently, he mentored freshmen and sophomores.
“He knew where their strengths were and how to get them where they needed to be to succeed,” O’Brien Kelsey said.
Feryn was also heavily involved at the YMCA’s Camp Reed. Starting in the mid-’90s, he worked with Camp Goodtimes, which offers kids affected by cancer a free week at Camp Reed.
Manfred said Feryn had an innate ability to connect with people.
“Spokane lost a great person,” Manfred said.
Subscribe to the Morning Review newsletter
Get the day’s top headlines delivered to your inbox every morning by subscribing to our newsletter.