Friday, January 18, 2002
POLK COUNTY -- It's the same flame -- the one lit a month ago in Greece, the one that's been tracking its way across the country to the Salt Lake City Olympics.
On Jan. 22, Bea Miner will carry that flame, the only Polk County resident to do so.
"If I was 16, maybe I'd try and go for the Olympics," Miner laughed. She'll get close -- carrying the torch in an official Olympic uniform.
And if the day isn't special enough already -- well, it's also Miner's 65th birthday.
Born in Belgium, Miner came to the United States at age 16. In a time of great national patriotism, she said, the Olympics broadens the focus. "It's wonderful.
"It's not just pride for America -- it's above that. It's all the countries of the world."
Watching the flame pass through Independence years ago, Miner and friend Nancy Blivens daydreamed about carrying it. When she found out the torch would be coming back, Blivens wrote an essay nominating Miner.
That was enough to sway the judges.
"I thought they just drew them at random," Blivens said. "But they actually read my entry."
By the time Miner found out she had won, Blivens had forgotten about the nomination. "I'm sure I said she's a great friend, a wonderful mother, she gives blood, she helps people learn to speak English," Blivens recalled.
Miner and her husband were vacationing in Glacier National Park when they checked the answering machine at their home outside Dallas.
Miner had to respond quickly with a notarized letter. But there was only one fax machine. And no notary public.
So she did the best she could.
It took another month for her to get the official word: She would carry the three-pound torch one-fifth of a mile at 1437 hours.
Miner is perfect to represent the county, said Linda Kaufmann of the Polk County Literacy Program at Chemeketa Community College. Miner has volunteered with the program for eight years, teaching the adults language skills.
"She's a wonderful person," Kaufmann said. "She's so enthusiastic. She's such an inspiration to her students."
Miner has helped students improve their reading and writing skills and to attain General Educational Development certificates. She tutored a Korean woman for an extended period: "She learned to speak English with a French accent," Miner said.
As an athlete and an ambassador, Miner reflects the spirit of the Olympics. For two weeks, everyone has the same hopes.
"I think of the poor, poor little guy who keeps running, keeps running, gets better and wins the Olympics.
"We shouldn't be blinded by the fact that people in other countries work just as hard," Miner said.
Although she never tried out for the Olympic squad, Miner has always enjoyed athletics.
She met he husband, Don, while swimming in Connecticut.
She still loves to ride horses, swim and bicycle.
"We're both outdoors types," Don said.
"Sports are very important," Bea said. And so is sportsmanship. Sports "should be encouraged more without so much competition," she said.
The Olympics are as much about young athletes meeting new people as they are about winning the gold, Miner said.
"They're competitors, but they're still friends. That's what it's all about."
Bea Miner will carry the Olympic torch at 2:37 p.m. Jan. 22 from Capitol and Marion streets north to Shade St in Salem.