Thank You, Harry

Coaching in the rain, October 2011
The above photo is a screenshot from an as yet unpublished short film I've been planning to edit for some time. It comes from a cold, rainy morning in Boston, following the Head Of The Charles in 2011, when Harry Parker and Bill Manning were gracious enough to allow me to ride in the launch during their training sessions. A rain drop obscures the crew in the middle ground, just in front of the port pontoon of the launch.

In many ways, this image speaks volumes about the man, and the legend. Already battling illness, Parker was unflinching and, to my eye, seemingly completely unaffected by the cold temperatures and wet weather. Not only that, but the joy that he took in coaching and helping athletes to refine and perfect their craft was, as ever, evident, even on a slow, steady state day recovering from the excitement of the previous weekend.

I didn't know Harry Parker well. In fact, I hesitate even to say that I knew him. I might have been someone whom he recognized from an interview here and there, or interactions around the racecourse, but in actual fact, we were acquaintances at best. However, as a rower having taken up the sport in the United States, I find it's impossible to feel like you didn't know him. Equally impossible for those of us stateside, and even abroad, is to grasp the idea that he'll no longer be in that launch, guiding yet another outstanding Harvard crew to victory in the coming season, and those thereafter.

The reasons for this are many. As Ed Hewitt of row2k outlined in a well-written remembrance of Harry, Parker's influence was, and continues to be, absolutely everywhere in the sport. It seems impossible that he is gone because he was so clearly a legend in his own time—and, for that reason, in many ways, he lives forever. Having lost loved ones, I know it may be little comfort in these sad times, but in the days, weeks, and years to come, I hope that his family and everyone in the rowing community can take joy in just how well Harry lived, and in how well he is remembered, celebrated, and loved—how much he remains a daily presence in the hearts and minds of all those who take up an oar in Boston, the United States, and the world over.

He was a man who accomplished so much in our sport—no doubt there will be books published on him—but, perhaps more importantly, he was a man who knew that you have to live with everything you've got.

Not two days before he passed away, Parker was in his launch on the Charles. He wouldn't have had it any other way.


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