Hey, Spike! tracks down some real nice characters
Special to the Daily
They were — and still are — a real pair that Leo “Hank Cheese” Larkin and Jon “Phyl MaCracken” Whitfield.
“Jon and I spoke as recently as last week, and we’re still on the same wave length,” Leo Hank reports.
At our Ten Mile Times weekly newspaper back in the ’90s, Leo and Jon were today’s equivalent of radio and TV on-air personalities, only they did it on paper.
Leo reminds, Spike!, “And we also had a successful Resort Channel TV show, a spin-off from the popular Times’ ‘View From the Pressbox’ weekly column.”
They covered the fresh-out-of-the-box Rockies, numerous local adult recreation games and a Nuggets’ game or two. Hank and Phyl’s highlight was definitely the one-on-one interview with Barry Bonds in the Giants, Mile High Stadium players’ clubhouse after Barry had a none-too-impressive inaugural Mile-Hi debut, preceded by a none-too-impressive threat of bodily harm to Phyl for taking close-up pictures of the All*Star during pre-game warm-ups.
In Frisco, Leo was a citizen athlete and a Public Works staffer, all while raising a family and working on his college degree.
Today, Leo lives about an hour north of the Golden Gate Bridge in Windsor, California, wife Cathi’s home state, where he eventually got a degree from the University of San Francisco in 2008, again in the public sector, working for the City of Healdsburg’s Public Works Department.
They have two boys, Conor, 24, and a recent graduate with a degree in business management from the Dominican University of San Rafael, and Jake, 27, enrolled at Sonoma State University in nearby Cotati.
Still an athletic-type guy, Leo/Hank just returned from playing in the USAV Nationals in Orlando, where his team won the Bronze Flight of Senior Mens 50+.
“We finished playing a three-day run Wednesday around 1 p.m.; late checkout; airport; airport in Houston; land in Oakland at 1 a.m.; hit the rack around 0300,” says Hank. “Weary, satisfied — bring on the next challenge.”
For Jon, who is much younger, it was on-field stardom as a Summit High soccer player and an on-stage actor. He later starred at Colorado College, leading the Tigers to an undefeated season and the national championship.
Today, Jon is the VP of event sales at MediaPost, the family firm of Hilary Fadner. The couple lives in Austin, Texas, and has two children: Rand and Evelyn.
As Times’ columnists, Leo and Jon — Hank Cheese and Phyl McCracken — were known to often push the boundaries of humorous good taste.
They also performed positive civic duties, like staging the Hank Cheese Challenge, an early-day extreme multi-stage event at Copper Mountain Resort.
Bringing this to the forefront recently was Spike! going through a box of old black-and-white photos. Whamo, there was a very young Doug “Sully” Sullivan.
Nowadays, Sully is a longtime partner in the Sulquist Mortgage-Megastar Financial firm in Frisco with Mary Frances Bevans Ahlquist.
Hank’s challenge went like this, Sully recalls:
“It was the second annual Hank Cheese Challenge and I took third place. I was 25.”
He and Hank remember the tortuous course that had athletes snowshoeing up from Union Station to the Timberline Ski Patrol duty station near the top of I and J lifts; next — traverse on alpine skis to S lift, climb up Union Peak from top of S lift, ski Union Bowl to R lift; hike from top of R lift up the Upper Enchanted Forest (this was the real killer for the first few to foot-pack the trail) to the top of Storm King; and to cap it off — snowboard from top of Storm King to the Double Diamond bar at the Fox Pine Inn.
“Good memories, but makes me tired thinking about it,” says Sully, today 51.
Organizer and namesake Hank Cheese offers more details.
When Leo/Hank got Spike!’s email, this was his initial response:
“Believe me, I was thinking of the event moments ago, reading Biff America’s (Jeffrey Bergeron) collection of Outside articles. As I recall he was monikered Biff ‘Wrong Way’ America — ‘cause the dude got lost on the course and dude got pissed. Biff was out in front, got confused at the base of R and S, took R, and blew a gasket. My bad, Biff, I figured a sharp cat like yourownself could read a trail map.”
Mikey “Glide” Meindl won year one.
“I got Mikey out of bed at his Copper condo, he hit the bong, and off we went. Darn near killed him. I had a huge lead, then kicked it and waited for him atop Union Peak where we shared an OG, then kicked out for a ‘pair of aces’ to the Double Diamond. Mikey took the day.
“John Gillette of the Copper Mountain Ski Patrol won the next two consecutive. (Chuck ‘CT’) Tolton and (Sam) Parker let him train all January when he should’ve been busting up chicken heads on Collage, or hauling wrecks down Scooter. I am not bitter that I placed second in all three, as best I recall, maybe third in the last one,” Hank writes.
“Turnout increased each year, I think Biffrey ran year two, but some other notables include Planetary Defenders Phil Kopp and Peter Dunn,” he adds.
“The best part of the Hank Cheese Challenge was the sponsors that kicked out big time prizes, too many to mention here. Gillette took half the entry money as winner with rest going to, I think, Children’s Hospital — Peter Siegel handled that. The prizes were all blind draw and most participants took home a few. Like I said, the donations were ridiculously generous.”
“Good to hear from you, Miles,” concludes Leo Hank. “Cathi and I will see you on Frisco Main Street on the Fourth.”
Miles F. Porter IV, nicknamed “Spike,” a Coloradan since 1949, is an Army veteran, former hardrock miner, graduate of Adams State College, and a local since 1982. An award-winning investigative reporter, he and wife Mary E. Staby owned newspapers here for 20 years. Email your social info to firstname.lastname@example.org
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