Terri Weed was 15 years old and pregnant when she was murdered by her boyfriend, Wade Willis. They were walking through the woods on a beautiful spring day when he bludgeoned her with a baseball bat and then returned and struck her repeatedly with a shovel. He left her in the woods, in a shallow grave. He was convicted by an Orleans County jury of first degree murder.
The date was May 21, 1981. I was new to the area, recently appointed Orleans County States Attorney by then Governor Richard Snelling. I had been out jogging on the dirt roads of Barton Mountain that afternoon, when I got the call from the State Police. They described what had happened and I set out to Morgan to view the scene and release Terri’s body to the medical examiner.
The sky was brilliant blue, the air was crisp and cool. The sun was warm on my face. And, as I drove out on Route 111, I was struck by the beauty of the dandelion fields of Morgan. I had never seen them before. The fields are on hills that overlook and come down to the road. In my heightened state (knowing what I was heading to), I felt like I was driving through the dandelions. The dandelion fields were one of the most beautiful bits of countryside I had ever seen. As I was driving, I thought of this young woman, walking through the woods with her boyfriend, in love on such a beautiful day. And of him, walking beside her into the woods, with his baseball bat at his side and at the ready.
I’ve been out to those fields on May 21st just about every year since then. Early spring, late spring, doesn’t seem to matter. Right at that time, May 21st, the dandelions are always at their peak, millions and millions of them, in shimmering green fields of uncut spring grass.
When we decided to do a half marathon run in 2009, I knew exactly when and where it had to be held – as close to May 21st as we could get it and run through the dandelion fields of Morgan, Holland and Derby. Julie Gunn and Pete Kellaway set the course on the dirt roads we now run. And we’ve been running it ever since.
At the time, I quietly dedicated this run to Terri. Her family was aware of this. But I didn’t make it publicly known. I didn’t want to detract from the joy of the run. With musicians at the relay stations and back at The Beach House, on the right day, this run is just too much fun.
But, domestic violence and violence against women continues. There is ongoing need for relief and support and advocacy for battered women and victims of crime. A portion of each registration fee from this run will be dedicated to Umbrella our local organization that provides such support. And from here on out, The Dandelion Run will be held In the memory of and in honor of Terri Weed, a victim of violence and lost to us at an age way too young.