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Flanigan family gathers at marathon to honor late father Joe

At least one Buffalo Marathon record is likely to be set on Sunday: fastest half-marathon by a guy wearing a purple suit and tie and carrying a briefcase.

Robert Flanigan isn't likely to have much competition for that title.

He's taking part in a fundraising effort by his extended family to honor his late father, Joe, by collecting money for the Alzheimer's Association. The effort is one of the novel portions of the annual event, held on the streets of Buffalo on the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend each year.

"It's a way to show that beating Alzheimer's is all business," Flanigan said about his planned attire. "I bought the purple suit on line, tried it on to see if it fit, and then got the legs shortened. It's the first and last time I'll do this."

As for the suitcase, the Long Beach, Calif., resident hasn't figured out if he'll carry anything in it during the 13.1-mile run.

"I might put some doughnuts in there as a snack," he said. "But I probably should think, the lighter the better. I wonder if the suitcase is a decision I'll totally regret a mile into the race."

Seventeen family members will take part in one of the three races this weekend - marathon, half-marathon, or 5-kilometer run. They are coming in from 10 states to pay tribute to Joe.

"My father was born in Salamanca, went to Canisius and St. Bonaventure, and taught at Eden High School," Robert Flanigan said. "My father passed away in 2014. We just sort of as a family got the idea to pull together and tap into the strength of numbers."

The group will call itself "Joe's Joggers," and everyone but Robert will be wearing a special purple t-shirt. It's a way for people who haven't run very often to raise money.

"Most of us have never run before in any sort of race," Flanigan said. "A couple of us are doing the full marathon - cousin John and cousin Mike's wife. For most of us, it will be uncharted waters."

That particular applies to Robert's mother, Elaine. Her first-ever race at the age of 75 is a half-marathon. Robert will keep her company during the 13.1-mile journey.

The late Joe Flanigan might be proud if a little puzzled to see his whole family running on the streets of Buffalo this weekend.

"She's never run any sort of race, never really run before," her proud son said. "But she's in great shape and has good genes. She's been training by herself in Arizona."

The family raised about $40,000 toward the effort; a check was delivered to the Alzheimer's Association. Flanigan and the rest of the family want the money to go toward research.

This is all a nice tribute to a man who had a full, interesting life - Naval officer, teacher, family man. But Joe Flanigan never ran a step unless it was part of a sport like tennis, which he coached.

What would he think if he could see the family running so far and so long in his honor?

"He would be, 'Aw, shucks,' and be bashful about it," Robert Flanigan said. "He never wanted attention. He was always the sort of guy who would give more than received. But he'd be smiling down for sure."


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