Olympic flame, Olympian lives
Torch bearers, singled out by someone they knew as being a source of inspiration, take part in ritual journey to begin 2002 Winter Games
By Pam Noles / pam.noles@latimes.com

January 17 2002

It was raining and a bit chilly along Fair Oaks Avenue in Pasadena on Wednesday morning, but that hardly mattered to Rancho Cucamonga resident Carol Beagley as she walked proudly up a hill holding the Olympic flame.

Her son, Joseph, was waiting for her, a torch of his own in hand. She passed fire to his torch, then he jogged slowly toward the next person waiting down the road -- environmental activist Erin Brockovich.

"It was incredible," Carol Beagley said as she wiped rain from her face and smiled at the small crowd clustered around her. Many just wanted to shake her hand, giving thanks and congratulations. She let every child who asked, as well as the adults, hold the 3 1/2 pound torch for a moment or two. Beagley, a vocational education instructor at Chaffey High School, was one of 10 Inland Valley residents to carry the Olympic flame through Los Angeles and Pasadena. They were chosen from more than 210,000 nominations, each picked because someone they encountered in life found them an inspiration.

Beagley, a survivor of polio and paralysis, was nominated by her son, though she still doesn't know what he said. Relay organizers picked both to run; she was No. 16, he No. 17.

"Coming up this hill was not easy, but it was worth it," she said.

More than 11,500 people throughout the country will carry the torch on its journey of 13,500 miles through 46 states to the site of the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City, where it is to arrive for opening ceremonies on Feb. 8.

Each torch bearer carried the flame two-tenths of a mile and was given a white uniform with a wind breaker, long-sleeve T-shirt, wind pants, fleece hat and gloves. All of them also had the option of purchasing their torches, designed after a mountain icicle, for $335.

Jenna Recupero, 16, a junior at Claremont High School, carried the torch Tuesday night down Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. She was a bit nervous at first over the responsibility of it all. But her family was there cheering her on, as were the other torchbearers, with whom she bonded as they rode on the shuttle taking them to their starting points.

"It was really, really, really awesome," Recupero said. "It was just so cool because for that one moment you are the only person holding the Olympic flame."

Tom Logan, a San Dimas resident who works as service operations manager at Xerox Special Information Systems in Monrovia, also ran Tuesday evening in Los Angeles. His route was "right down the street" from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, where he gets monthly treatment for multiple myeloma, a rare cancer formed by malignant plasma cells in his bone marrow.

Nominated by his son, Logan was looking forward to his part of the relay, even though it brought with it one odd incident.

"I got a call from a stranger asking if I wanted to sell my torch," Logan said. "It's not for sale at any price. After I hung up, I thought I should have asked, just for fun, how much?"

Fontana Police Chief Frank Scialdone, nominated by a former captain on the force, carried the torch in Pasadena on Wednesday. He viewed the experience as "a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity" good for the city and the police department.

For the past seven years, Scialdone has joined other police officers on a five-mile run through Fontana to raise money for the Special Olympics, so the short run on Wednesday didn't pose a problem, he said. He plans to preserve his torch and outfit in a shadow box, a memento for the entire family.

"This is really an honor, something you'll not only cherish but your kids will," he said. "Passing down the torch to your kids, it's a legacy."

Cindi Bernhardt, a West Covina resident who receives therapy at Casa Colina Centers for Rehabilitation in Pomona, was nominated by a nurse she met 20 years ago in Denver. Bernhardt, who became quadriplegic after a spinal cord injury in 1981, also carried the torch in Pasadena on Wednesday. An artist who learned how to write and paint using a specially adapted pen held between her teeth, she remembers watching the torch come through town in 1984, when she lived in Hacienda Heights.

"To actually be participating in the relay is almost as exciting as being one of the athletes," she said.
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