Jerry B. and Zellah M. Swartsley

Jerry B. Swartsley and Zellah M. Swartsley, Medford Sports Hall of FameFew people ever have the opportunity to see a sport born, advance through infancy, and reach adulthood. Jerry and Zellah feel fortunate in that respect. They are the founders of many road races (running) in the Rogue Valley. Beginning in the late 60’s, a time before running was popular as it is now, there were few “runs: in the entire state (only three) or runners (a field of 20-30 was typical in those days.) everyone knew everyone throughout the state and there was a camaraderie among those who participated, This was an era when women were not expected to compete at distances and there were few who did was 1974 when the first woman competed in the oldest run in the valley (Pioneer Road Run), held along the country roads of Phoenix. These were the days before digital stop watches, computers, chonomixes, or Frank Shorter. Numbers were handmade, usually from paper tagboard. Nike running shoes had not been invented, nor had nylon shorts, nor fancy running apparel. No books had been written on running and running magazines there were not! Jerry’s first pair of marathon shoes were made of canvas and cost $6.95 (Tiger Cubs). T-Shirts for races had not been invented. Often times it was the obligation of the runner who finished first in the race to time the other runners, Although Zellah was usually at the finish line with a clip board in the one hand and a sweep-hand stopwatch in the other, writing the names of the finishers as they crossed the line.

Many events can be attributed to the Swartsley’s Stagecoach (Jacksonville), Pioneer (Phoenix), July 4 (Ashland, Women only, American Fitness Day, Pepsi, and the “Granddaddy” of them all—Medford’s Pear Blossom Run, which has received national acclaim. Beginning as an idea in 1971, becoming a reality is 1977, with 546 runners and 25 volunteers, and growing to a field of over 2000 in 19685 with 400 volunteers. Pear Blossom had become a true “family affair” drawing runners from several states. Along with the parade, there is not a spaghetti feed and barbecue, adding to the festive atmosphere.

A Pear Blossom Run Scholarship Endowment which is awarded to a Jackson County high school girl and boy has been established through these good peoples’ efforts. The host club, Southern Oregon Sizzlers Running Club, is also an outcome of Swartsley’s running involvement.

While various awards have been bestowed upon the Swartsleys from other people: Booster of the Year award by Medford Visitors Bureau, Selection to the Governor’s Council on running, awarded the directorship of two national road running championships, Etc., and Jerry having run in the prestigious Boston Marathon (he is an avid runner himself and had competed in 30 marathons); there is one thing that stands out in the Swartsley’s minds in all their years of involvement in running. It is the people they have met and the friends they have gained. In the minds of Jerry and Zellah, they will last longer than all the medals, trinkets, and newspaper articles – they are what their memories are made of.