At their June 22nd training run, CARA Darien runners honored the late Eric Goldbranson by placing flowers on the bench placed in his honor at Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve.
Eric Goldbranson, was a dedicated, well-liked and admired CARA group leader at the Darien training site. Passing away in 2015, he is remembered as an always reliable, even-tempered, pleasant and highly supportive leader.
“An extremely nice guy”, says Jim Murphy, CARA Darien site coordinator. “If the world had more Erics, it would be a much better world, indeed.”
In 2013, at the beginning of the training season, Jim recounts that Eric informed him that he would not be able to be a group leader because he was having health problems. Eric had been diagnosed with brain cancer. Eric and his wife had a son in high school and a daughter just starting college. Just prior to his diagnosis he had changed jobs. As a new hire, Eric's employer considered him a probationary employee and promptly let him go upon receiving the news of his diagnosis.
Jim recalls how proud he was of his CARA group that spontaneously came together to find ways to support Eric. On August 17, 2013 the group held a fund-raiser called "Run A Mile 4 Eric." The group got a permit for a park near his home in Darien, organized the food, set up the site, measured the course, and put in the effort to make the run a huge success Eric began to recover from his first brain surgery.
Eric's running friends took turns bringing meals to his house, took him out to lunch or dinner when he felt well enough, took him to the Chicago Marathon Expo to meet with the charities he hoped to run for when he got healthy, and even attended Eric's son's school plays.
When the doctors told Eric he was in remission, a large group of his running friends accompanied him on his comeback 5K. At the time CARA honored Eric for his service, tenacity in the face of hardship, and the grace with which he handled his illness.
Eric went on to endure two years of hopeful ups and heartbreaking downs in his health, before passing away on October 12, 2015 at the age of 51. Jim recalls one of their last conversations together. Eric commented that with all the difficulty of the illness and the treatments, he was glad the treatment gave him two more years with his family and friends. He was particularly grateful to enjoy time with his wife and teen-aged children. He did his best to prepare them for his passing, and reassure them that they will be fine.
“This was classic Eric -- he was more concerned for others than for his own comfort and well being.”, says Jim.
After his passing, runners again raised funds and sponsored the installation of the bench in his memory at Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve. His family picked the location in a peaceful spot overlooking a pond in the distance, just past MilePost 3. The bench was dedicated by the CARA Darien group at the opening of the 2016 training season, and ever since the group brings flowers and pauses at his bench in his memory on the second week of training, the first time each season they pass the bench each year during marathon training.
On your next visit to Waterfall Glen, we encourage you to take a moment to honor Eric as you pass his bench. And to recognize the impact leaders like Eric make on running and the community.