Feb. 21, 1923 – Aug. 3, 2016
Loretta E. Shehan was 57 when the last of her children left home and someone in her family suggested that she drive over to Cazenovia Park and jog.
“It lifted her spirits so much she returned the next day and then again the next,” a Buffalo News story on senior runners reported in 1994. “And within a few weeks, she ditched the car, choosing instead to run the mile from her West Seneca home to the park.”
Mrs. Shehan went on to run hundreds of races and achieved national ranking. She ran the New York City Marathon 14 times, until she was 76 in 1999. Twice she finished first in her age group. She also was second two times and twice was third.
“Pint sized at just 5-foot and the life of any event she goes to, Shehan is an inspiration to those who feel that age has caught up with them, that maybe it’s time to stop running,” News running columnist Mike Bebee wrote in 2000.
A perennial leader in her age division in The Buffalo News Runner of the Year rankings, she ran her last race in the 2008 Turkey Trot with a daughter, a son and a granddaughter. She died Wednesday in Orchard Heights, Orchard Park, from congestive heart failure. She was 93.
Born Loretta Plewinski in Dunkirk, she was a graduate of Mount Mercy Academy and earned a bachelor’s degree from D’Youville College. A homemaker and the mother of seven, she did not consider herself an athlete until she started jogging. She ran her first race in 1980.
In addition to running in New York City, Mrs. Shehan traveled to Colorado, Alaska, France and New Zealand to take part in races. She collected numerous trophies and set many records in her age group.
She was a regular entrant in the former Connors Kait Harrity Memorial Run in South Buffalo, which inducted her into its hall of fame.
She also took up bicycle racing and won three gold medals in the U.S. National Senior Sports Classic in Baton Rouge, La., in 1993.
Her husband of 51 years, Harry A. “Bud,” a South Buffalo Railway supervisor, died in 1997.
Survivors include four sons, Mark, Richard, James and Joseph; two daughters, Judith Hochberger and Laura Norwood; 13 grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.
A memorial service will be held in the fall.