Few, if any, of our Raging Buffalo faithful had the
opportunity to meet, or know my dad, but without Harvey Duck, Raging Buffalo Snowboard Park would not
exist. In 1966 my father became the skiing and winter sports editor for
the Chicago Daily News, and a family of ski enthusiasts was
One of his first assignments was to report on the annual ski jumping tournament at the Norge Ski Club in Fox River Grove. We bundled up and headed out to see what skiing was all about, as my Mom, my sister Linda, and I were told we would be learning to ski. After watching world class 'ski flyers' shoot down the ramp and soar the length of a football field, this wide eyed nine year old looked up at my father with a tear in his eye and said, "Daddy, I don't think I want to learn how to ski".
My dad was an award winning sportswriter for the Pulitzer Prize winning Chicago Daily News, known during its existence as a 'writer's newspaper'. He covered everything from high school sports, to being named Outdoor Editor, Skiing Editor, and Motorsports Editor. While covering high school sports he wrote the first article about an up and coming football player at Chicago Vocational High School. His name? Dick Butkus. My dad also broke the story of Cassius Clay changing his name to Muhammad Ali.
As the Outdoor Editor he was one of the first proponents of conservation of the area's wildlife and natural resources. He was instrumental in the return of Coho salmon to the area for sport fisherman. He received awards from the Outdoor Writers Association of America, the State of Wisconsin Conservation Department, the Forest Preserve District of Cook County, the Chicago Park District, the Manitoba Department of Tourism and Recreation, and was recognized by the Illinois Federation of Sportsmen as the 'Conservation Communicator of the Year' in 1966.
As the Motorsports Editor of the Daily News, and then Public Relations Director of STP Corporation, my dad's list of awards and recognition is too long to mention here, although he was most proud of the one's from his peers, like the Eastern Motorsports Press Association, and the Auto Racing Writers and Broadcasters Association. He worked closely over the years handling media relations for many of the top teams and drivers in both open wheel (Indy) and stock car (Nascar). Names like the Granatellis...the Unsers...the Andrettis...the Pettys...Jimmy Vasser...Tony Stewart...Arie Luyendyk...Gordon Johncock...Bobby Rahal...Wally Dallenbach...Terry Labonte...the list goes on and on.
When informed of my dad's passing, Richard released this statement to the media: "Harvey was one of the original PR guys in motorsports, and especially in NASCAR racing. He came to STP from a big Chicago newspaper, and there hadn't been much of that at all for race teams or sponsors. Harvey knew the sport and he knew the media. A lot of the things people are doing today in PR started with guys like Harvey Duck. Add in the fact he was a pretty nice guy, and he was fun to have around. We've missed him since he retired, and our thoughts and prayers are with his family."
While going through my dad's office in Florida, I came across his address/phone book. The list of names of auto racing personalities he had as personal friends was overwhelming. Think of the name of an announcer, owner, driver, and they were probably in there. Having known this man all of my life, and at the age of 80 in his death, he still had the ability to amaze me.
I had a great childhood growing up. Not only were my Mom and Dad loving parents, but I also got to meet sports celebrities on a regular basis. My memories include sitting in our family rec room 'talking skiing' with olympians Billy Kidd and Jean Claude Killy...walking between the lines at Soldier's Field and meeting Chicago Bears greats Johnny Morris and Mike Ditka, during their playing days...entering the Blackhawks locker room after a game at the old Chicago Stadium, and 'chatting' with the Golden Jet, Bobby Hull...and let's not forget spending time in the Cubs dugout at Wrigley Field, with Mr. Cub, Ernie Banks!
My favorite memories of my dad's association with auto racing, are from hanging around the STP suite at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, during many months of May...meeting drivers, celebrities, his friends and cronies, telling stories and sharing a cocktail. The police escorts, in and out of the track, made me feel like a rock star! Like my father, the suite is no longer with us, having fallen victim to the track's renovation for the formula one race, the US Grand Prix.
My dad had a great sense of humor his whole life, and was even joking with the nurses right up to his death. (I'll tell some of you the story). Any of you that have known me well enough to suffer through my somewhat juvenile and sophomoric sense of humor, you have known my father in spirit. In the days, weeks, and years to come, many people will be telling 'Harvey Duck stories', sharing a laugh with friends. Through these stories my dad lives on.
He was a family man, a brother, a husband, father, and grandfather to my sister's four children. He showed his love for children by donating his time to help 'Team Seattle', a sportscar team that races in the Rolex 24 hours of Daytona. With my dad's help, they have raised more than one million dollars for medical care for underprivileged children in Seattle and the Northwest.
My dad and I were great friends. We didn't always see eye to eye, or agree on everything, but we admired and respected one another. We rarely said the 'L word' to one another, but we knew the emotion was there. I have been asked often, if because I am single, I miss the opportunity to raise children of my own. You forget that I have helped 'raise' many of you over the last 13 years, and continue to do so to this day.
I will, however, miss my father......I love you, Dad!
For midwestern friends and family of Harvey Duck a memorial banquet is being organized in Chicago the week before the July 10th Nascar weekend. If you would like Keith to contact you with exact date and time information please click Register Me below.