Bob Davis Runs Chicago for Mother-in-Law

Marathon runner Bob Davis remembers very clearly the early stages of his mother-in-law’s illness. Marilyn Wetjen’s indigestion and upset stomach led her doctor believe she had an ulcer. Bob’s wife, Lorraine, adds, “There were certain foods that she ate all of the time that made her feel ill.” Bob and Lorraine became extremely concerned when they learned that Marilyn became too sick to cook. She had always prided herself on preparing delicious home-cooked meals, but was now sending her husband to the deli to pick up food.

Marilyn Wetjen
Marilyn Wetjen

In May, 1999, the family finally got answers. Marilyn was diagnosed with stage IV pancreatic cancer. Her oncologist attempted radiation treatments, hoping they could shrink her tumor and buy her more time.  Lorraine says, “The doctor said to her, ‘I have actually had a couple of patients who have lived for two years.’ I knew that couldn’t be true because I didn’t know anyone who had survived that long with pancreatic cancer.” Unfortunately the treatments did little to increase her longevity. Marilyn passed away just two months later on July 11, 1999.

Marilyn pictured with daughter Lorraine and husband John.
Marilyn pictured with daughter Lorraine and husband John.

Born in 1925, Marilyn Wetjen raised three children, including Lorraine. During the war she worked for the telephone company. She took time to raise her children and returned to work when her kids were in school full time. Even though her mother passed away 17 years ago, the pain of losing her has not dissipated. Lorraine says, “It has been 17 years since she passed and there is not a day that goes by that I do not think of her.”

Bob and Lorraine Davis
Bob and Lorraine Davis

Bob, an avid marathoner, learned about Project Purple through his local running club. He is now preparing to run the Chicago Marathon with the Project Purple team and his friend, alumni Gina Alvarez.

Bob Davis Starts Running

In the 1980s, the president of the company Bob worked for said, “If you can run three miles, I will fly you to Corpus Christi and you will participate in the Beach to Bay relay marathon.” Bob thought that sounded like a great deal, so he took up running. True to his word, his boss flew him from New Jersey to Texas and Bob ran a leg of the relay. Bob had fun, but the thought of running a marathon had not taken root in his mind quite yet.


The following year, he traveled to support his company president, Paul Merriman, who was participating in the New York City Marathon. As Bob took photos of Paul, he thought, “I would like to do this next year!” Bob trained to go the distance and ran his first New York City Marathon in 1985. Since then, he has run that particular marathon a total of 9 times.

Bob Runs for Charity

In 1987, Bob had his first foray into running for charity. He was running the New York City Marathon and a friend offered to sponsor him. His friend said, “I will donate $1000 for each kid I have if you run for the Leukemia Society.” The first year, this friend donated $2000. The next, he gave $3000.  This was in the early days of charity running groups, and Bob’s contacts at the Leukemia Society were blown away by how much money he had raised.

Bob quickly discovered that he loved running for a cause. He has run for numerous charities over the years, including one that raised money for children who are battling cancer. It was during that particular race that Bob found himself struggling to finish. He thought about dropping out, but thought of the kids who were fighting cancer. Thinking of their battles kept him in the race. He explains, “I finished the race because I was running it for somebody else. It really is the right thing to do.”

McKinney Running Club

Born in Philadelphia, Bob now resides in McKinney, Texas. He is currently the president of the McKinney Running Club, a social running club with 250 members. The group typically meets for long runs on Saturday mornings. It is not unusual for the group can have as many as 70 runners turn out. It was through the running club that Bob met Project Purple runner Gina Alvarez. Gina had signed on with Project Purple to run the New York City Marathon in honor of her uncle who had passed away from pancreatic cancer.

Gina Alvarez and Bob Davis after finishing the New York City Marathon
Gina Alvarez and Bob Davis after finishing the New York City Marathon

Bob and Gina ran the marathon together, not worrying about time or placement. They simply used the time to reflect upon the people they had lost to cancer. During the race, Bob promised Gina that he would join her and run with Project Purple for his next marathon, and added that she could pick the race. Gina chose the Chicago Marathon. Bob last ran the Chicago Marathon1992, when he ran in honor of his boss who passed away from cancer.

By running the Chicago Marathon with Project Purple, Bob is able to combine many of the things he loves. He gets to run another marathon. He is able to train and run with a good running friend. He has the support of a team and he gets to raise money in support of a cause he cares deeply about. Finally, he gets to honor Marilyn’s life. Though she has been gone for many years, she and her battle with pancreatic cancer are never forgotten.

The Wetjen family. Front: John and Marilyn. Back: Lorraine and brothers John and Tom
The Wetjen family. Front: John and Marilyn. Back: Lorraine and brothers John and Tom

Please support Bob’s Project Purple fundraising campaign by making a donation at the following link:

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