Vail Daily column: A short, meaningful life, and why the duck race matters |

Vail Daily column: A short, meaningful life, and why the duck race matters

Zeke Pierce always loved the Rotary Club Duck Race, which takes place Aug. 31 this year. Zeke worked with the Vail Rotary Club to sell ducks throughout the summer.

Zeke Pierce found his way to the Rotary Club of Vail in 2010 through Dan Telleen, owner of Karats jewelry store, and the link between Zeke and the Rotary Club continues even as we pass the anniversary of Zeke’s death. Zeke wanted a job that summer four years ago. Specifically, he wanted to work at the farmers market that had become a hit in Vail on Sundays. Dan and his colleagues from the Rotary Club had a spot right in the center of it, selling the rubber ducks that compete in a race down Gore Creek every Labor Day. The duck sales raised money for youth scholarships, and they were kind enough to bring Zeke into the tent. Zeke would help set up the sales operation in the morning, run errands for Dan and aid in whatever way was needed to keep selling those rubber ducks. Zeke quickly became the kid operating the credit card machine. He was a dependable young man, and people of all ages seemed to like him.

The race itself always interested Zeke. He loved getting into the creek and cheering the ducks along, even in the years before he helped to sell them. Yet the objective of selling those ducks probably did not resonate with Zeke until his good friend Victor Guilmineau applied for a scholarship to study in Hungary for the 2013-14 school year. In March 2011, Zeke and Victor had already shared an unforgettable overseas experience together — they were in Naeba, Japan, with Ski Club Vail when the tsunami and earthquakes hit Japan. After that experience Victor wanted to expand his horizons even further by spending a year in Eastern Europe. Thanks to the Rotary Club, Victor secured the funding to study abroad, and we think this is one reason that Zeke felt good about all those ducks he helped to sell with Rotarians.

After Zeke passed away last summer, the Rotarians welcomed Zeke’s brother Max to the tent. Then on Labor Day, Zeke’s father, Crawford, was even helping out, chest-deep in Gore Creek, helping set up the duck race. For our family, the Rotary Club has been a great group of people who are dedicated to helping young people in our valley. This group has embraced our family throughout the loss of our dear son Zeke.


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Some months after Zeke’s passing, Dan and fellow Rotarian Reggie O’Brien thought of a clever way for the Rotary to keep Zeke’s spirit present in the valley. After consulting with our family, they started the Zeke Pierce Memorial Scholarship for students pursuing an emergency medical technician paramedic degree at the Edwards campus of Colorado Mountain College. For the 2015 EMT paramedic academic year (January-December), the scholarship can support one in-district student with a full 100 percent tuition scholarship or one in-state student with a 50 percent tuition scholarship. It was people with this type of background who rescued Zeke and kept him alive long enough to give life to several others through organ donation.

If you are interested in pursuing EMT training, then we encourage you to take advantage of this new resource in the name of Zeke. If you know someone who is considering this training but needs some reinforcement, tell that person about this opportunity. And next time you see the Rotary tent at the farmers market, consider buying a duck to support this scholarship because we are fortunate to have people on the mountain every day with the knowledge and training to act quickly in emergencies. These humble people are an important part of our mountain community.

Young and old, people can create enduring positive energy, as we discovered with Zeke. We miss him every day. With deepest gratitude to the Vail Rotary Club from Crawford, Liv and Max Pierce, and Mia and Nikken Cullman.

The Rotary clubs of Vail, Edwards and Eagle are charitable organizations of local professionals and philanthropists from a variety of age groups and industries. To donate to the duck race, go to duckrace or contact the Duck Race organizer, Ben Gochberg, at 970-471-3546. To get involved in Rotary, go to or ask a Rotarian.

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