Remembering Bruce Tracy

Bruce Tracy died while flying at the U.S. National Paragliding Championships in Telluride, Colorado, on September 18, 2003. Although we shared a love of mountain sports, Bruce and I crossed paths only occasionally, since we lived on opposite sides of the Cascades and were busy with our respective families and projects. I had the opportunity to fly with Bruce several times, to climb with him at Tuolumne Meadows, and to ski with him on Silver Star Mountain, a favorite tour of mine in his backyard. I was impressed by Bruce's dedication to his family even more than his passion for outdoor sports.

Bruce and his friend "Downwind Dave" Kruglinski were constantly dreaming up imaginative paragliding adventures. Click here for a story of one of them, as told by Dave. Sadly, Dave also died while flying his paraglider. Click here for a remembrance of Dave Kruglinski. In 1997, a dream that Bruce and Dave nurtured for years, the first paragliding crossing of the North Cascades, was realized by another pair of pilots. Bruce was keenly disappointed to have missed that flight, but he was always gracious about it, and he made many pioneering flights in his home mountains before and after that. I wrote the following acknowledgment shortly after that event:

To: Northwest Paragliding Forum
Subject: One Man's Vision -- A Tribute
Date: Fri, 15 Aug 1997 09:20:34 -0700

There is more to the story of the first paraglider crossing of the Cascades that deserves to be told. For years, this flight as been the dream of Bruce Tracy of Omak, Washington. Bruce was one of the first Northwest paragliders. He has been flying since the days of Feral 7-cells and has pioneered more flights in the northeast Cascades than anyone else. His long relationship with the range led him to the conviction that it would be possible to fly cross the Cascades by starting at Mazama and following the North Cascade highway west.

True creativity consists of two parts, insight into what may be possible and persistence in making the dream a reality. Bruce has been persistent in pursuing his dream. Several years ago with Downwind Dave Kruglinski he made the first paraglider flights from the summit of Goat Mountain, a hike-up launch. Knowing that better access to the air would be crucial to catch the right conditions, this spring with Dave Verbois he developed the lower Goat launch, 2000 feet above Mazama on the Goat Mountain road. He proved the viability of the new launch by flying across the valley to Driveway Butte, climbing back up to 9500 feet, and flying partway to Silver Star Mountain before returning to Mazama. The stage was set for a serious attempt at the crossing.

As a physician and family man, Bruce's opportunities for attempting the big flight were limited. He knew he would have to wait, hone his skills, and hope the right conditions arrived on one of his days off. His enthusiasm never flagged though. While flying at Chelan one day he mentioned his dream to Mark Telep, an experienced Oregon pilot. Two days later, while Bruce attended to his responsibilities in Omak, Mark and Jay Carroll made the historic flight.

In flying history, the pilot who records the flight in his logbook is the one who gets the credit. In this case though, I know that it was Bruce who nurtured the dream, pointed the way, and showed that it was possible. So while I tip my hat to Mark Telep and Jay Carroll for their splendid accomplishment, my hat is off to Bruce Tracy.

Here is a rememberance of Bruce written by his family and friends:
Bruce Charles Tracy was born in Evanston, Illinois, on February 27, 1948, and lived in Haddonfield, New Jersey with his parents Ed and Dolores Tracy and his brothers, Ed, Jr. and Scott. After graduation from high school, he went to Franklin and Marshall College and the University of Pennsylvania, trying to sort out his many callings. Time has always been a special challenge for Bruce, and time was running out. He studied French in a hurry and after two years in a French Medical School he transferred to Philadelphia where Bruce and Marie-Dominique were married in 1975; six months later, they had their French wedding.

Since the residency program in Family Practice kept him on the East Coast, he was eager to move west and answer the call of the mountains he'd first felt while a teenager on a cross-country trip with his parents. Marie was also an avid outdoor enthusiast and the two began exploring the area, at first alone and soon accompanied by sons Dominic and Julian. Since 1983, Bruce and Marie have lived in Omak, WA. Dan Dengel, MD, and Don Brecht, MD, had welcomed him to their growing practice at Okanogan Valley Clinic.

"Dr. Flygood," as he was known by his paragliding friends, lost his life doing what he loved to do. His passion for free flying excited his competitive nature and inspired him to share the skies with his family, friends, and anyone who wished a tandem ride in the clouds. He pioneered many flying sites in Eastern Washington and was always looking for a new launch and a new cross-country record. His other passions also kept him in the mountains whenever possible, whatever the season. Always a bit of a daredevil, he took pride in his cross-country skating speed, yet found himself still chasing his Marie uphill. He usually took a fishing pole as the family hiked to remote high mountain lakes and in the past provided dinner or breakfast until Dominic and Julian taught him to let the fish go with a kiss goodbye. When not able to fly or fish, he spent time scrambing on rocks, mountain biking, writing poetry, photography, continuing study in the medical field and listening to music and trying to find time to build a kit airplane.

We will miss him as physician, father, husband, friend and thought provoker-extraordinaire!

Lowell Skoog

The Alpenglow Gallery