LINDA FESSELL,  3/13/1947 - 12/11/2011  



Since the Pink Dragon Ladies came together 7 years ago, we have lost 4 members to cancer.  As difficult and painful as those loses are . . . we saw them coming.  We braced ourselves for them, and we bore the blows.   But like Linda last Sunday . . .   we did not expect a drunk driver to barrel through a red light. 

We could not brace ourselves . . . and we are still reeling from the blow.

Seat 5 Left is empty today.  It belongs to Linda Fessell.  From those very first days when we sat in folding chairs in a USF meeting room with our yardsticks for paddles . . . Seat 5 Left belonged to Linda.  She was THE ‘Engine Room.’

Other “pistons” came and went – but Linda was always there.  She was the - “mid-ship metronome.”  In our boat all newbies are assigned to the back of the boat – and we tell them: “just follow Linda.”

As most of you know, Linda and several of the Pinks were also charter members of the Bladerunners.  And, for a while we had the time to practice with and compete on both teams.  That experience made us all better paddlers and allowed us to share our new skills with our fledgling survivor team. 

But I know, without a doubt, that if Linda had chosen to stay with the Blades . . . she could have been a world class paddler today.

She was a coach’s dream come true.  She always delivered; she never complained; she always paid attention; and she had perfect technique. 

But Linda chose to paddle with the Pinks.  She went where she could do the most good.  It was never about Linda.  It was never about winning (although she enjoyed that as much as the rest of us).  It was always about the PINKS. She truly embraced the Pinks’ role as “the militant arm of the breast cancer survivor movement.”

Losing Linda is a great loss to the Pink Dragon Ladies and to the dragon boat community – both here in Tampa Bay and across the country.  We’ve received tributes to Linda from as far away as Miami, Birmingham, Atlanta, and Indianapolis.

Linda’s example in and out of the boat will live on, but perhaps her most lasting legacy will be the reminder to each and every one of us, that we should never take tomorrow for granted.

We love you, Linda!  Godspeed!

-Liz O’Connell

“Linda often sat directly in front of me on the dragon boat  - left side, bench 5.  I knew her more from her actions than her words.  Linda was a person who showed up.  She showed up for practices,  and she showed up for dragon boat races week after week  and year after year.  I think showing up says a lot about a person.  It says they are dependable and persistent and that you can count on them.  Those are all good qualities in my book.  Linda was also a good paddler, and she took it seriously.  She had good paddling form, and she always seemed to give it 100%.  I sat in front of her on a few occasions and was kindly alerted to the fact that I wasn’t extending my reach far enough.  What was really at issue though was that I was impeding Linda from doing the same, and she wanted to do the best that she could.  Through this interaction,  I learned that Linda was conscientious and hard-working and always striving to be the best that she could be.  I’ll miss Linda’s presence on the bench ahead of me – her in-synch stroke, her long reach, and her long-standing deep commitment and loyalty to the Pink Dragon Ladies.”