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Jeff Kolpack, Published May 16 2013

97-year-old all set to participate in Fargo Marathon 5K

FARGO – Kathleen McMerty is a 1933 graduate of Milton High School in the northeast part of North Dakota. As far as she can recall, there was not a girls track and field team.

Well, it’s never too late to reclaim her eligibility. So tonight, she’ll be the favorite to win the 97-year-old age group in the Fargo Marathon 5K.

OK, she may get a little help along the way. A lot of help.

What started as a cool idea by her son, Brian McMerty of Wilmington, N.C., to come back to his hometown and do this event with his mother has turned into a family reunion of sorts.

“I thought it was maybe kind of goofy, but then I thought maybe the kids will think it’s great, so I’ll go along with it,” Kathleen said.

The “kids” in the plan besides Brian include her sons John, Pete and Laurie and her daughters Kathy and Jeanie. Laurie McMerty’s wife Kathy and Kathy’s husband Gary Denault will also participate.

Kathleen has nine children in all, and all are Fargo Shanley graduates with the exception of Mike, who went to Fargo Central. Mike and his wife, Rita, and John’s wife, Joan, will take the role of fans for Kathleen tonight.

Brian, who is from the class of ’76, doesn’t get back to Fargo very often. And when he does, he’s floored by the events like the Fargo Marathon, which is expected to draw well over 20,000 participants this weekend.

“I was stunned,” he said. “I saw that the Fargo Marathon was ranked in the top 10 in a category and I was shocked, because I don’t think of Fargo as a destination. The people who organize it must be incredible.”

Brian actually put his 5K plan together last year when he wanted to push his mother in a wheelchair when she got tired of walking. His goal is for her to finish in the top 50 percent as a woman in her upper 90s.

“She sees life through rose-colored glasses every day,” Brian said. “She’s just a happy person. She goes with the flow no matter what happens, and she’ll have fun and will be smiling the whole time. I think she’s happy to get us all together and have a fun event like this.”

John is coming from Denton, Texas; Laurie from Bismarck; Kathy from St. Paul; and Pete from Minneapolis. Jeanie lives in Moorhead.

“They are such good kids,” said Kathleen, who turns 98 next week. “Every day is a blessing for me.”


Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be reached at (701) 241-5546. Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia