Dale Tusen was a husband, father of 3 young children, brother, pharmacist, avid cyclist, and a friend to many across the globe.
Dale was also an easy man to love and admire, especially in the sometimes fickle world of online friendship, where many friends are here today and gone tomorrow.
That wasn’t how Dale T (Dale’s online brand name) operated; he was a “stayer” and so were the friends he loyally cultivated over time.
Dale seemed too good to be true, working full weeks as a Walmart pharmacist, actively participating in his church, regularly posting smiling photographs of himself and his family, and actively cycling 300 or miles every week at amazing speed, both indoors and out.
Most importantly, however, was Dale’s genuine interest in others. Even with a hectic work and training schedule, Dale always made time for his online friends; often the first individual who commented on an athlete’s workout posts, consistently day-after-day, week-after-week, month-after-month, and year-after-year.
I was one of those friends.
Dale asked me to be his online friend on July 17, 2011, and I graciously accepted, not realizing how central he would become to me and others in the Dailymile online community.
By September, Dale was officially ranked as one of my top-3 weekly Dailymile motivators for the first time and would remain so for 93 consecutive weeks.
On Mondays after the release of the weekly ranking report, I’ve regularly-posted a photo collage of that week’s top-3 motivators to thank them for their friendship and support and Dale was always in the “center photo.”
There simply was no reason to rearrange Dale’s photo; he was a “stayer,” while the other weekly spotlight motivators tended to change over time.
Due to Dale’s loyal friendship and consistency, his photo and brand became ingrained in Dailymile’s fabric over time; reinforcing the community’s affirmative values of friendship and performance each and every Monday.
Monday, July 22, 2013 had gone the same way the previous 92-weeks had gone: Dale in the center of the motivator tribute collage I posted that day and an intense indoor workout performed by Dale after a day’s labor at the pharmacy. Afterward, Dale posted his training session and wished his friends a “Happy Monday” and a “great evening.”
The following day, July 23, I noticed that I hadn’t heard from Dale that morning, which was unusual, but I didn’t think much about it, assuming that he was busy and would catch up later.
Then it happened, shortly before Noon, a Dailymile friend from Ohio (Dale’s home state) posted a link to an online newspaper story reporting that Dale died early that morning from injuries sustained in a road accident, when a vehicle hit his bicycle from behind.
My first reaction to reading the online report was shock, but that quickly subsided as the instincts developed during 16 years of writing online kicked-in: confirm the report or kill it.
Unfortunately, the online report was one of three already posted citing Dale’s name specifically as the accident victim. Then I scanned Dale’s Facebook page and noticed condolence posts from some of his friends.
Shortly afterward, I notified Dailymile’s executive leadership and elected team members about Dale’s passing so they wouldn’t be caught off guard that day.
I also made an official announcement with all the details that were available at that time.
Not surprisingly, Dale’s death shocked his friends and the general online community that Tuesday and only intensified as the week moved forward and he was laid to rest that weekend.
But the reality of Dale’s passing struck home for me on Monday, July 29: for the first time since September, 2011, he obviously wasn’t going to be one of my top-3 ranked motivators that week or ever again.
So I made a decision to “play it straight” and post the photo array for the new top-3 motivator list that didn’t include Dale. Not surprisingly, some of my friends were upset that I didn’t consider using Dale’s photo image as a “memorial” for either a brief period or even for the remainder of 2013.
However, one of the responsibilities of being an elected official in an online community is to help the community to heal and turn the page in tragic situations like this.
I also felt that Dale is still with us daily: memoralized on Dailymile profile pages such as mine and others, a devoted memorial page on Facebook, the college fund that’s been established to help educate his children, and the memorial cycling event that’s being planned in his honor next summer.
Yep, he’s still with us and will remain in our hearts forever.
Most especially on Mondays.
Brian Adkins is a Chicago-based runner, marathoner, endurance athlete, writer, editor, essayist, and independent scholar. You can contact Brian at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Contributions to the Dale Tusen Memorial Fund can be made by check to: Dale Tusen Memorial Fund, c/o Heather Tusen, 904 Jackson Drive, Port Clinton, Ohio 43452 or by PayPal at Heathertusen@yahoo.com (please mark your contribution to the Dale Tusen Memorial Fund in the note section). For further information, consult the Dale Tusen Memorial Page on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/daletusen.memorial