Calgary Herald tributes George Pelawa, a Bemidji sports and hockey legend
Editor's note: Below is an excerpt from the Calgary Herald's story on Bemidji sports legend George Pelawa, who was a Bemidji High School hockey standout drafted by the NHL's Calgary Flames. He was killed in a car accident in Bemidji months after he was drafted in 1986. Pelawa's parents, Frank and Winnie, are trying to keep alive the memory of a star robbed of his chance to shine. Visit the link below to read the entire story.
Shrugging on his jacket, Frank Pelawa squints through the living-room window at the miserable morning. Skies cloudy, rain whipping.
"It was like this the day of the funeral," he sighs.
Homestead to graveyard is a blink. Left on Pond Road, right on Grove Street, left on Irvine Avenue. It takes the modest procession -- parents in their sedan, followed by the photographer in his car, followed by the reporter in his rental -- only a few minutes.
For Frank and Winnie Pelawa, this drive is part of their daily routine.
Because trips into nearby Bemidji -- a pretty city in northwestern Minnesota -- carry them directly past Evergreen Cemetery.
There is an alternative.
But that features the intersection where their son was killed 24 years ago.
Given a couple of decades to consider the merits of each route -- sweeping past the boy's resting spot or the site of his death -- the parents have come to prefer the burial ground. Which isn't great, either, says Winnie.
"You think of it every time you go by."
Today, though, they don't go by.
Since they've been asked to stop, they stop.
Since they've been asked to pose at their son's gravesite, they pose.
Four pucks neatly lined up on the headstone don't surprise the parents. Happens all the time. They cannot explain how pucks get there. They just appear.
"Kids. Friends," says Winnie, shrugging.
Restless, the Pelawas pick at the sap on the headstone. The camera clicks.
George Dale Pelawa, six foot three and 245 pounds, had been approaching Paul Bunyan's dimensions, literally and figuratively. The broad-shouldered teen was threatening the mythical lumberjack's poster-boy status in these parts.
But the burgeoning legend, a three-sport standout, died in a car crash, Aug. 30, 1986.
"Many think of the wasted career, but he's been our shining star for years," Lyman Brink, assistant coach at Bemidji High School, said a week after the accident. "We now have to think of his wonderful past."