Lincoln Journal In Memoriam: Glen 'Jody' Pritchard

TimeThursday, August 9, 2012 | 10:00 AM
By RON GREGORY
Staff Writer

WEST HAMLIN ”“ When Glen"Jody” Pritchard began his battle with cancer two years ago, friends and colleagues on the cross country racing circuit described him as "brave,” "courageous,” and "dedicated.”Â

Although Pritchard lost that battle with the "Big C” when he passed away surrounded by family and friends at his West Hamlin home on July 30, those who spoke about him last week were even more profound in their expressions regarding their friend.
 
"He was the best friend I had from shortly after I met him in 2005 until the day he passed,” said Huntington attorney and West Hamlin resident "Rowdy” Baker. "I never had the ability to race that he had, although I tried. But one thing about Jody: he never let his illness get him down. The first thing you saw from him was that wide grin and happy smile. I honestly believe he never thought for a moment that his illness would get him. He was optimistic to the very end.
 
Another racing friend, Matt Copley, said, "He was an inspiration to everybody. His willpower, his drive and his courage was what made him an elite driver and it undoubtedly kept him with us longer than the doctors anticipated.”Â
 
In fact, according to Baker, "they thought he might make it six months when he was diagnosed in April 2010.”Â

It was April 10, 2010 when news reached family and friends in Lincoln County that Pritchard had been severely injured in a crash during the morning cross country race known as Big Buck in South Carolina. As explained by those familiar with cross country events, such races as the Big Buck are a part of the Grand National Cross Country (GNCC) circuit.
 
Those who attended the race said Pritchard was traveling through an area that had been clear cut. When he attempted to pass another rider on the trail, his vehicle slammed into a cut-off pine tree stump. That threw him and his vehicle, referred to as a "quad” by racing enthusiasts, off the track and into brush. While trying to recover, he slammed into a larger stump that sent him cartwheeling through the air.
 
Pritchard was immediately transported to Wallace Thomson Hospital in Union, South Carolina. There, it was found that he had suffered a broken collarbone, several broken ribs and a broken left leg.
 
In addition, medical personnel in South Carolina, after examining the xrays, asked Pritchard’s wife, Ellen, who is "always at his side” how long Pritchard had been suffering from cancer. This was startling news to Ellen Pritchard and members of the family, including Jody. Then 51 years old, he had not been diagnosed with cancer prior to this information coming forth in South Carolina.
 
He was immediately returned to St. Mary’s Medical Center in Huntington, where doctors confirmed the South Carolina finding. That began the long, difficult road to what he believed would be his complete recovery that included chemotherapy and other treatment for his illness. The mass found in his lung was said to be the "size of a baseball,” according to his wife at the time of the accident. St. Mary’s staff also found that Pritchard was suffering from squamous- type lung cancer and that it involved both lungs and his lymph nodes.
 
Baker, whose legal practice includes representing people with cancer commented after his passing, "Jody was diagnosed then with cancer that was in the fourth stage. The chances of survival are so minimal, but he never acted like he even understood that. He faced each day with a smile and a happy tune and he really did inspire everyone he met.”Â
 
On Facebook, where dozens of tributes poured in, Amy Stevens McConnell perhaps summed up the sentiments expressed. "Glen was a Die hard racer with high octane race fuel running through his veins,” Stevens wrote. "He just wanted to race throughout this whole ordeal. With the help of Glen’s brother James, they fixed up his UTV and made it race ready. Glen and his son-in-law Rob raced the GNCC Mountaineer Run Masontown, WV in the XC2 class. "Team Survivor” was in 10th place on the first lap, gained momentum, made some great passes and ended up with a 6th place finish.
 
What an awesome day with "Smiles & Joy” surrounding him at the finish line.
 
At the Big Buck race, Jody Pritchard was racing in the Super Senior (50-plus) category, according to the GNCC Website.
 
After the diagnosis, Ellen Pritchard described her husband’s attitude on a note to fellow racers in the GNCC. "Jody’s outlook is a positive one. He is preparing for this battle the same way he does for each race he enters. He intends to win.”Â
 
Jody Pritchard’s attitude, coupled with a desire to "get back to racing as soon as possible,” were among the qualities that allowed him to endure more than two years rather than the six months doctors predicted. "He absolutely thought, until the day he passed, that he would beat that illness just as he had beat tough odds before," said Baker. "Racing and children were his passions. He loved his grandchild and he loved to race. In fact, he loved all children and liked to meet and talk to them at racing events. He was a hero to them and he filled the role well."
 
His cancer-related treatment began with "aggressive chemotherapy” on Tuesday, April 20, 2010. He also volunteered to participate in a "trial experiment” that began the same day, hoping it would be beneficial to him as well as future lung patients. "Anything that was out there that the doctors suggested might work was good enough for Jody," said Baker. "It is difficult to believe the experimental treatments he received. Although they often made him sick, he just pushed forward."
 
Copley echoed Baker's words. "What an inspiration he was to us all," said Copley. "And yes, he loved children. He'd get down and dirty with them."
 
Although the treatment regimen continued, it did not stop Pritchard from returning to his favorite hobby ”“ racing ”“ at the end of the 2010 season in October.
 
In fact, according to Baker, the transformation of Pritchard in a week’s time prior to the first race of 2011 was "just overwhelming. A week before that first race back last spring, Jody was really suffering and still in pretty bad shape but the closer he got to race day, the better he felt."
 
According to GNCC statistics, that first race was in Florida and Pritchard placed first in his class. He is currently ranked in the group’s top 30 overall, the GNCC Website reports."What a testimony to his work ethic," said Copley. "First race in the condition he was in and he came in number one."
 
According to Baker, Pritchard "rode his Polaris Racer for the final time on May 26, 2012 in the Mountaineer Run at Masontown. I guarantee you, as I said, that in May, June and July of 2012, he was fighting just as hard as ever. And he still had that perpetual smile on his face when you saw him."
 
In fact, Pritchard said, "I actually got til I hesitated to visit him at home, even though I considered him my best friend. I knew if I visited, he felt obligated to put on his best face and make every effort to be friendly and outgoing. I hated to put him through that."
 
Baker and others involved in cross country racing say they are "just overwhelmed” with Pritchard’s endurance and determination. In fact, Pritchard returned to the racing circuit in 2011 with what appeared to be increased determination to win.
 
Baker is said by Pritchard’s family to have been the person who introduced Pritchard to competitive cross country racing. While Pritchard loved to ride four-wheelers and other all-terrain vehicles prior to 2005, it was that year that Baker said he finally convinced his long-time friend to "start competing on the national scene.”Â

Baker, an attorney, added, "From the very beginning, I knew the raw inherent talent Jody had for the sport. I had some idea how devoted he would be to it, but he has amazed me with his courage and determination."

Baker also pointed out that cross country racing "can be very expensive and time-consuming.” He said it costs upwards of $10,000 to "build” a vehicle for the racing circuit. "Jody builds a new one every year,” said Baker. Racing in the 45-plus class, Pritchard won race after race and has won both on the national and local scene. A fellow racer said those who participate in the GNCC "try to keep competitive by running in local races when they can’t make it all the way to some GNCC event.” Pritchard, however, follows the GNCC as far south as Florida and north to New York state.
 
"Jody’s devotion to racing is in his blood,” said another competitor.
 
Another said, "Jody’s determination is unbelievable and I truly believe racing is one of the ”˜carrots’ that was dangling in front of him and helped keep him inspired when his treatments got the roughest. He wanted to be back racing and that kept him inspired.”Â
 
Baker noted that he believes cross country racing "is the toughest sport in the world. A typical race takes two hours over often rugged and untamed terrain. Just for sheer endurance, Jody deserves special recognition.”Â

When asked how cross country compares to sports such as football, which Baker played at the old Guyan Valley High School, he responded, "There’s no comparison. You don’t get 20 seconds between plays and a halftime break. I carry 70 ounces of liquid with me and drink it all during a race. Then I drink another 50 to 60 ounces right after a race just to rehydrate myself.”Â
 
So determined was Pritchard to lick his disease that he bought and put together a new racing vehicle for the 2012 season. "He felt he would complete this season and be back on top next year," Baker said. The vehicle Pritchard put together for 2012 was a "UTV," according to Baker. In fact, Baker said Pritchard would have won his division in 2011 except for an accident he suffered on September 24, 2011 at Somerset, Pennsylvania. "He was leading and would have won it, no doubt about it," said his friend.
 
One driver estimated that Pritchard was going 40 miles per hour when he had his accident in 2010. "The requirements for mental toughness, as well as physical stability, are unique in sports,” the driver said. "Not only do you have to outrace the other drivers, you have to keep your mind alert every second for the next hazard on the trail.”Â
 
Perhaps Baker best summed it up: "Jody Pritchard is a fighter and an inspiration. He has made us all feel better about ourselves as we watch him behind the wheel or at his home. Everyone is pulling for Jody and I believe he is one of the strongest, most devoted people I ever met. It would be a better world if everyone was like Jody Pritchard."
 
Pritchard was surrounded at the time of his passing by his family. Born November 5, 1958, he was the son of the late Donald and Lois Brunty Pritchard.
 
He is survived by his wife and constant companion of 33 years, Ellen Richardson Pritchard. He had two daughters and one son-in-law, Valerie Nichole Pritchard Sellards and husband Robert Michard "Rob" Sellards of Huntington, and Jodie Michele Pritchard of West Chester, Pennsylvania. He adored his granddaughter, Lillian Maci Sellards of Huntington, according to family members and friends.
 
He is also survived by one sister and four brothers and their spouses: Patty S. Robinson and husband Thomas of West Hamlin; Douglas Lee Pritchard of London, England; James Albert Pritchard and wife Linda (Sanders) of West Hamlin; Eugene Pritchard and wife Angie (Lambert) of Hamlin; and Anthony Brian Pritchard and wife Raylena (Porter) of Branchland. He had 13 nieces and nephews and 14 great-nieces and nephews.
 
He was the owner of Pritchard Construction. Celebration of Life services were held at McGhee-Handley Funeral Home in West Hamlin on Thursday, August 2 with Rev. Wesley Cremeans officiating. Interment was in the Pritchard Point Cemetery on Dairy Road, West Hamlin.
 
The family offered thanks to all of those who "lovingly supported and cared for Jody, Ellen and family along this journey."
 
Family members summed up their loved one in much the same way as others. They quoted from Second Timothy, chapter 4, verse 7: "I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race. I have kept the faith."