Sept. 12, 1964 – Dec. 15, 2015
Allen Scott Pleban loved intense adventures – whether they involved ski orienteering competitions all over the world, triathlons and adventure racing contests, working on weapons systems for the Navy or climbing the highest mountain in America.
The Cheektowaga native was chosen five times by the U.S Orienteering Federation as its athlete of the year. He competed in Iron Man contests, Nordic skiing championships, marathon canoe races, swimming races and many other high-intensity events.
“Scott was one of those people who always packed 48 hours of living into 24 hours, every day,” said his mother, Lucille Pleban.
“No, it was more like 72 hours in 24 hours,” said one of his sisters, Dr. Gail Pleban-Johnson.
His great love of adventure made Mr. Pleban’s death this week at age 51 especially sad –after he had been incapacitated and unable to communicate for more than two years and seven months,
Mr. Pleban died in Greenfield Health & Rehabilitation Center, Lancaster. He never recovered from traumatic brain injuries suffered when he was hit by a car while riding his bicycle in Dahlgren, Va., on April 26, 2013. According to his family, a Virginia woman was convicted of reckless driving in the case, and fined $250.
“After the accident, Scott couldn’t talk. He was pretty much confined to his bed or wheelchair,” his mother said. “Before it happened, he was so full of life.”
“He was the kind of person … anything he ever did, he put his entire heart and soul into it. Everything with Scott was 100 percent,” said Pleban-Johnson. “Of all the people for an accident like this to happen to … ”
Mr. Pleban was a graduate of West Seneca East High School and the University at Buffalo, where he starred on the track team and was team captain.
He earned bachelor’s degrees in engineering and aerospace at UB, and later earned a master’s degree in mechanical engineering. He worked at an engineering job in Old Forge, before he was hired by a company in Connecticut to work on submarine designs. He later was hired by the Navy to work on weapons systems in California and then Virginia.
Despite his work schedule, Mr. Pleban always found time for adventurous sports competitions that took him all over America, and to Russia, Switzerland and other countries. In 1997, he was nominated for the James J. Sullivan Award, given to America’s top amateur athlete.
Although he enjoyed competing in a wide array of adventure sports, his family said Mr. Pleban was especially skilled at ski orienteering, a winter endurance sport that combines navigation and cross-country skiing, often over extremely rough terrain.
“It has been likened to playing chess while running a 40-yard dash,” Lucille Pleban said. “Scott was really good at it. Teams from all over the world would call for him to serve as their navigator. We have plaques he won all over the world.”
Mr. Pleban won two bronze medals in World Masters ski orienteering competitions, and also was a 13-time U.S. Ski Orienteering champion, according to the website of the ATP Adventure Racing organization. The organization called Mr. Pleban “a legend” in his sport.
His family said he participated in numerous triathlons, and extremely challenging Eco Primal Quest competitions, which have been characterized as one of the most difficult sporting competitions in the world.
“One of Scott’s biggest goals was for ski orienteering to become an Olympic sport, but it never happened,” said Pleban-Johnson.
He did accomplish a major goal in June 2011, when he was part of a team of mountain climbers who reached the summit of Denali, also known as Mount McKinley, in Alaska. Denali’s summit is 20,320 feet – the highest point in North America.
The climb took 14 days. It was 20 degrees below zero at the mountain’s peak and “the coolest adventure of my athletic career,” Mr. Pleban told The Buffalo News in an interview after the climb.
“Scott loved the Bills and Sabres, and talked about them to people everywhere he went. He wanted to have his picture taken at the mountain peak with his Bills hat on, but it was too cold and windy,” Pleban-Johnson said.
In addition to his mother and sister, Mr. Pleban is survived by his father, Norbert, and another sister, Lynn Pleban.
A Mass of Christian Burial was offered Friday at St. Philip the Apostle Church, 950 Losson Road, Cheektowaga.
– Dan Herbeck