the pain of loss

One horrific year… on February 8th (2019)…our family and the world lost a bright shining star in sailing and in life…our beloved son, best-friend, our north star, Owen St. Paul Eliasen, age 20, to a viral infection which manifested as myocarditis.  97 endless wrenching days at bedside in the ICU.  Our athlete, scholar, mentor, pre-med student (St. Olaf College) alpine ski instructor, soccer fanatic, enduro motorcyclist, astute political observer, faithful Catholic, wicked-witted, wry, piercing sense of humor, devoted son, loving brother to his sisters Grace and Izzy, stalwart friend…

But it was sailing where Owen emerged exactly as we characterize at the highest level and in the best of cases.  That sailing, perhaps singularly, brings out our best selves.

Owen was born into sailing and the life aquatic, as so many in the SA community.  By age 5 an Escape Cha Cha underfoot with sister Isabella (OK, Dad was a little over the top), age 10 on to O’Pen BICs, co-leading the movement in Oshkosh and the region, the occasional OB regatta road trip to Miami, The Cape, Ottawa, Door County, WI.  Emerging next as a tireless partner in building community sailing with mom and dad–public schools in NE Wisconsin, all manner of community sailing, the fortunate connection with CRAW (Catamaran Racing Assoc./WI), the occasional Hobie 33 crewing on Lake Michigan.

From there–family sailing in the Lake Huron North Channel, Apostle Islands of Lake Superior, windsurfing in The Keys.  Deft powerboat handling, seamanship, and one of 10 US Sailing Level 3 instructors in the state of Wisconsin, achieved by age 20.

Winter season meant alpine ski instruction at Nordic Mountain, WI, and helping with the instruction of Nordic skiing on modest school playgrounds…  It has been said that “Those who sail carry themselves differently in the world, that there’s a sure-footedness, a quiet confidence in each step…”    so it was with Owen.
A gentlemen, a scholar, a friend, a helpful hand to the masses of new sailors out for a day (their 1st day, for almost every 5th grader) on the water with their classmates–an unimaginable experience to almost any kid across the globe–except for Oshkosh kids over these 12 years, and largely due to our rock-steady yachtsman-leader, Owen.

What sailing did for Owen was nearly indescribable–an unrelenting upwards trajectory where he found his full measure.  What Owen did for sailing, for his fellow man, was more so—modeling and sharing the best in all of us, through the prism of sailing–leadership, courage, thorough mastery, humble confidence, jumping in and “doing what needs to be done.”

While a year ago we couldn’t imagine how one goes on with life, mom Sara and I go on to fulfill and share, as best we can, Owen’s legacy..slowly, on a smaller scale at first, but then on to reaching as best we can other young sailors, skiers, academics, film critics, humorists, MD’s, voyagers, sharing with each a bit of whom, and what, Owen was in the world.

A scholarship in Owen’s name is established with Green Bay (WI) Sail and Paddle, where Owen led instruction and safety for 1200 new sailors annually before falling ill.    He will be missed.  He will be mourned.  His life will be shared, until the end of days……

Thanks, with deep affection, to:     Nevin Sayre, Kevin Gratton, Kevin Broome, Daniel Hearn, Martin Malcheski, Chris Blake, Guy Selsmeyer, Jason Bemis, Tom Atkins, Cappy Capper, Katie Tinder, Scott Powley, Dave Wallace, Maxwell Hermans, Fred Krumberger, John Kelly, Wendy+Dave Townsend, Chris and Denise Percival, Sam Fitzhenry, Becky Paul, Peggy Collinsmith, Wayne Fischer, Fr. Tom Long, Fr. John Cloate, and the countless, tireless medical professionals at Froedtert Hospital who worked without end to save our beautiful boy…and the myriad friends who helped, who taught, who prayed, who eased, who loved.

Steve Eliasen
Oshkosh WI