The Northland running community lost two iconic figures Thursday with the passing of Kevin Peterson of Superior and Eugene Curnow of Saginaw.
Peterson died at the Solvay Hospice House in Duluth of pancreatic cancer. He had been diagnosed in 2011. He was 54.
Curnow was diagnosed with lung cancer in October and died in hospice at St. Luke’s hospital. He was 68.
They passed away within an hour of each other in the early morning.
Both were runners for much of their lives and volunteers in the sport they loved. Both were participants in the Grandma’s Minnesota Mile on Superior Street last September.
Peterson, a lifelong Superior resident, had been part of Grandma’s Marathon since its inception in 1977. He was a member of the founding organization, the North Shore Striders, and ran in the inaugural race.
When the race went to a nonprofit status in 1987 and needed volunteers to help run the event, Peterson pitched in and continued to help. In 2010 and 2011, he was chairman of the 16-member board of directors. He also had served on the Superior City Council and was a Superior mayoral candidate in 1987, 2000, 2003 and 2011.
“As much as he loved running, Kevin also loved politics. He had an opinion on everything and was willing to do whatever he could to help improve any situation,” said Grandma’s Marathon executive director and good friend Scott Keenan.
Peterson owned rental properties in Superior and was actively involved with his business until six weeks ago. And after he was unable to run he continued to walk and stayed active.
“Kevin worked as long as he possibly could and ran as long as he possibly could. To the very end, he was thumbing his nose at the Grim Reaper,” said close friend Tim Stratioti of Duluth.
Curnow, a Duluth Central graduate, worked for a decade as a brick layer apprentice at U.S. Steel in Duluth, then spent 20 years with the Diamond Tool and Horseshoe Company, and most recently was a personal-care attendant at a Duluth nursing home. Curnow and his wife, Barb, volunteered their services for countless running events in the Duluth area for more than 25 years, from directing races to stocking aid stations to recording race results.
“There wasn’t anyone who worked any harder for our running community than Gene,” said Duluthian Jarrow Wahman, co-owner of Austin-Jarrow Sports. “He was always going, going, going in helping to put on races, and preparing trail race courses, and racing in events himself. And he enjoyed every minute of his connection with runners. He put in thousands of hours and was always smiling.”
Peterson and Curnow were serious runners.
Peterson ran for Wisconsin-Superior and finished Grandma’s Marathon seven times; had a marathon best of 2 hours, 36 minutes in Miami in 1985 and ran a Las Vegas half-marathon in 1:10 at age 40 in 1999; and completed the Edmund Fitzgerald 100K race of 62.1 miles.
Curnow was a veteran runner of more than 200 marathons and ultramarathons (those longer than 26.2 miles).
“Running has been a lifelong passion, and I believe living a healthy lifestyle teaches you many things about life. I still believe that,” Peterson told the News Tribune in 2012.
At the Superior Street finish line of the 2011 Grandma’s Minnesota Mile, Curnow required CPR and defibrillator assistance, and later underwent quadruple heart bypass surgery. And yet came back a year later to complete the race, again.
Gene and Barb Curnow celebrated a 50th wedding anniversary last Saturday.
“Gene wanted to make it to the date of our anniversary; that was important to him,” said Barb Curnow. “Through everything the last few months, he was optimistic. He was always very optimistic.”
A race which Gene Curnow founded 22 years ago, the Half Voyageur Trail Marathon in the Spirit Mountain area, will be renamed the Eugene Curnow Trail Marathon when held July 13.
A celebration of Peterson’s life is planned for June 11 at Duluth’s Greysolon Ballroom. Information on services for Curnow is expected to be in an obituary in Sunday’s News Tribune.
Photo: Kevin Peterson (left) and Eugene Curnow