Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Schenecker dad begins a journey, surrounded by children's friends

TAMPA — He was here with her overnight last year. She'd fallen asleep in the bounce house while music blared and kids circled the track.

Army Col. Parker Schenecker had walked until the sun rose in the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life. This year, he would do it without her.

Saturday night, candles lined the track that his 16-year-old daughter Calyx once ran with her King High School team. Some burned for Calyx and her 13-year-old brother Beau, illuminating their father's journey.

It had been 50 days since the colonel got the news that his two children had been murdered and that his wife had confessed to pulling the trigger.

Almost immediately, he decided how to deal with this: He would tend to the causes that mattered to his children, so as to complete their unfinished legacies. He would dwell on their lives, not their deaths.

On Saturday, the grieving father took his first steps. He took them neither alone nor childless.

A teenage boy, one of Calyx's good friends, sped up when he saw Schenecker walking. Tears streaming on Jacob Gassen's face, he drew the colonel into a tight, close-fisted hug that left the two frozen on the track as the crowd flowed past them.

Jacob and the colonel shared words as they continued to walk, their arms still wrapped around each other. The teen called the colonel's attention to a glow in the sky, a bright disc in space closer to Earth than it had been in 18 years. They gazed up at the super moon.

This is how the evening went, the colonel smiling big under his baseball cap, stretching his arms across groups of two and three kids at a time as they crossed their arms over his, making it unclear at times who was holding up whom.

Schenecker encountered a boy who shook his hand and said, "I just want to tell you your son was an amazing goalie."

He saw his daughter's English teacher, Jeff Halle, one of her favorites. "Here's what I want to do," the colonel told him. "Do you mind hugging another dude?"

The teacher told him he had some artwork Calyx had made. The colonel was familiar with her work and the signature she practiced, a swirl of a C punctuated with the stroke of an X. He thanked the teacher and told Halle that if there was a piece that meant something to him, he should keep it.

The night air grew crisp. The sad music gave way to rock and pop, Frisbee and Twister, and the colonel's presence lightened. He picked up a football and continued to walk, singing a song as it played: "I wanna be a billionaire, so freakin' bad. …"

With every lap, he passed the Harry Potter-themed tent set up by his daughter's friends. The colonel hasn't yet read the series, but he knows he will.

"She told me, 'Dad, nerd is the word.' "

Her words come to him often.

When his friend bragged Saturday that he'd walked 60 laps, Schenecker grinned and said he walked more — "whatever that was, plus one."

He remembered something.

"Calyx would say, 'I love you infinity plus one.'

"Then Beau would say, 'I love you infinity plus two.' "

Early in the night, before everything began, he needed to take a moment, just walk away from the crowd.

But now he let himself become part of it all.

He laughed at boys dressed in drag in the "S'He's so hot" competition.

He refereed dodgeball games, telling kids, "Just have fun, don't cheat, and if you hit the ref, you're out."

As Schenecker walked, a student spotted his football.

"Hey! Wanna play catch?" the boy shouted. The colonel tossed the ball, caught it, and continued to walk.

Into the dawn, he walked, one step at a time.

Alexandra Zayas can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3354.

Memorial benefits the Relay for Life

The students of King High School collected more than $131,000 to benefit the American Cancer Society as part of Relay for Life. Those on Calyx's team, Wizarding Independence Day, kept her as their captain and raised enough money in her name to make her the highest fundraiser of the event. Her father, Army Col. Parker Schenecker, accepted a trophy for her at the end of the relay. Schenecker donated $5,000 to the event, using contributions made to his children's memorial fund. To contribute to the fund, which he plans to use to continue their legacies, call (813) 282-1975 or send donations to the Calyx and Beau Schenecker Memorial Fund at the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay, 550 N Reo St., Suite 301, Tampa, FL 33609.

Schenecker dad begins a journey, surrounded by children's friends 03/20/11 [Last modified: Monday, March 21, 2011 9:33am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Datz to open in St. Petersburg, join the James Museum of Western and Wildlife Art

    Food & Dining

    Now Datz news.

    Get it? Tuesday, Datz, the longtime line-out-the-door, oft-Instagrammed and -Yelped Tampa stalwart known for shock-and-awe sandwiches and oh-so-much bacon, announced it is coming to St. Petersburg.

    Lunch guest eat at Datz Deli at 2616 South MacDill Ave. in Tampa. Times files.
  2. Republican leader McConnell pulls the plug on latest Obamacare repeal effort

    WASHINGTON --- Sen. Mitch McConnell on Tuesday officially pulled the plug on the latest plan to repeal the health care law, telling senators they will not vote on the measure and effectively admitting defeat in the last-gasp drive to fulfill a core promise of President Donald Trump and Republican lawmakers.

    Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky. listens during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2017, after the Senate confirmed Betsy DeVos as education secretary. DeVos was approved by the narrowest of margins, with Vice President Mike Pence breaking a 50-50 tie in a historic vote. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) DCSA119
  3. Lightning's Brayden Point could be perfect fit alongside Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov

    Lightning Strikes

    SUNRISE — Brayden Point ended last season as the Lightning's No. 1 center, thrust into the role as a rookie due to injuries.

    Lightning center Brayden Point (21) advances the puck through the neutral zone during Friday's preseason game against the Nashville Predators. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  Times]
  4. For starters: Rays at Yankees, with Blake Snell starting, Wilson Ramos cashing in

    Blogs

    The Rays open their final road series of the season tonight at Yankee Stadium, which is also where they played their first of the season.

    LHP Blake Snell will be on the mound for the Rays, looking to continue his successful late-season run, in which he is 4-0, 2,57 over his last eight starts.

    Tonight marks Wilson Ramos' 55th start of the season.
  5. Cannon Fodder podcast: Considering Gerald McCoy's comments

    Bucs

    Greg Auman talks about Gerald McCoy's comments — both about fan criticism online and Donald Trump — in the latest episode of our Bucs Cannon Fodder podcast.

    Gerald McCoy, front, said Monday that he would love to have a conversation with any of the fans who take to social media to criticize him and his Bucs teammates. [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]