Ask someone that knew Don Maynard what he was like, and you will get the same response nearly every single time.
“Don always had a smile on his face,” is what they will tell you.
This weekend marks the 19th running of the Don Maynard Memorial Five Miler in Greenfield. It’s an event that takes place every September and it not only raises money for a very good cause, but it’s also a chance to remember a man who touched many lives locally in one way or another until his life was tragically cut short.
Maynard grew up on a farm in West Deerfield, the oldest of four children. He served in the Marines following high school and was stationed in Japan for four years. His younger brother, Clark Maynard, who is 14 years his junior, can still remember when Don came home from the service. Since Clark and his sister Hilma were both very young when Don went away, Clark said it was really the first time he remembers meeting his older brother.
“He got picked up at the airport and when he came home, we were standing outside waiting for him,” Clark Maynard recalled. “He walked up to me, rubbed the top of my head, and kept walking into the house. Then he came back outside smiling, excited to meet us. He didn’t recognize us because we were so young when he went away and we had grown up. But he was a great older brother. He was pretty much our mentor. He was honest, hard-working and fair.”
Hilma echoed the sentiment.
“You know, people will say that someone is ‘too good to be true,’ but it is true about Don,” she said. “He was always interested in how everyone else was doing.”
Maynard, who also has a sister, Linda Caron, wound up making his home on Oak Ridge Road in Greenfield. He has a son, Eric Maynard, and a pair of grandchildren; Payton and Maddie. Upon returning from the Marines, Don decided to attend night classes at New England College. At the same time, he worked days for the duMONT Company on Wells Street in Greenfield, which manufactures precision broaches. Maynard wound up working at duMONT for over 25 years, right up until the day he was murdered.
His death came on what was a regular work day in September of 1994. Maynard headed home on his lunch break, but unexpectedly walked in on a robbery in progress. According to police reports, Julie Pike and Barry Loring had lived in the woods behind Maynard’s home for a short time before deciding to break into his home and steal his car. When Maynard interrupted the robbery in progress, the former couple shot him to death. They were later captured and convicted of murder.
Prior to his death, Maynard got into running and biking (sometime in his earlier 40s) and it is from these two hobbies that a number of memorials have sprouted. One person he met while running was Chuck Adams, and the two men became close friends. After Maynard’s death, Adams decided he wanted to find a way to honor his friend, and he decided to hold a race in his honor.
“A lot of us were very much into running and we wanted to find a good way to remember Don,” Adams said. “He was a runner and a cyclist, so we decided to hold a race.”
Adams went to Karen Demo, who was working at the Greenfield YMCA at the time and had knowledge of how to run a race. Demo helped Adams get started and the inaugural Don Maynard Memorial Five Miler was off and running in September 1995. This Saturday marks the 19th consecutive year that the race has been run, an astoundingly long time.
“I think what it speaks of is that Don touched Chuck in a way that he is still doing it 19 years later,” Clark Maynard said. “To us as a family, Chuck is on a pedestal right along with our brother, and I want to thank Chuck for continuing to put on this race all these years later.”
The race begins at 9:30 a.m. near Harper’s Store on Colrain Road in Greenfield and heads out into the Meadows before circling back toward Greenfield Community College. The race then heads down the bike path in Greenfield, where runners go over the bike trail bridge and pour out to the finish line near the Green River Swimming and Recreation Area. One thing that many people probably don’t know is that the bike trail bridge is actually named the “Don Maynard Bike Path Bridge.” Also, there is a bench and two trees next to the bridge, which were put there in memory of Maynard by his former bike club, the now defunct Franklin County Free Wheelers. The Free Wheelers paid for the bench and two trees, and the Town of Greenfield supplied the workers to put them in. The bench says, “In memory of Don Maynard.”
“Don wasn’t a politician, he wasn’t a business owner, he was just a regular guy,” Clark and Hilma said. “He was very humble and everyone knew him.”
It’s that very reason that the race has remained as humble as it has over the years. While there have been offers to increase the size of the race from a numbers point of view, Adams said that Maynard wouldn’t have wanted that. With roughly 125 to 130 runners each year, the size of the race has remained manageable from Adams’ standpoint, helping also to keep it alive.
Adams also incorporated a lot of Maynard’s traits into the race. All the proceeds from the race go into a scholarship fund and each year two high school seniors are chosen to receive $500 scholarships in Maynard’s honor. Students are required to write an essay on sportsmanship, something that was very important to Maynard.
“The motivation for the scholarships was because of his emphasis on sportsmanship,” Clark Maynard said. “He taught that to Hilma and I at a young age.”
“He was a wonderful role model for us growing up,” Hilma added.
Adams’ wife, Cathy Coutu, who is a teacher, is one of the people who judges the essays and helps make the difficult decision to pick the two winners.
Another interesting piece of the race is that Adams gets donations from local people and local businesses and every person who runs the race is automatically entered into a raffle for all the prizes. Names are drawn and people can choose one item from the prize table. Adams said that most years, nearly every runner walks away with something.
“In Don’s mind, everyone was a winner,” Adams said.
So if you drive down Nash’s Mill Road Saturday morning and see a bunch of smiling faces congregated at the finish line, you’ll know who they are and why they are there. And I can’t help but think that somewhere Maynard is probably smiling with them.
It’s not too late to sign up for the race (and the three-mile, non-competitive walk) if anyone is interested in doing so. People can register at runreg.com or by contacting Adams or Coutu at 522-6688. Cost is $18 for the run, or $12 for the walk if registered prior to race day, or $20 (run) and $14 (walk) on the day of the race. Registration will take place from 9 to 9:30 a.m. on the day of the race.
Jason Butynski is a Greenfield native and Recorder sportswriter. His email address is email@example.com.