Marathon tribute: ‘Team Treml’ honors sisters at Cellcom in Green Bay
KINGSFORD — The electric blue shirts stood out, even in the sea of spectators and participants at the Cellcom Green Bay Marathon.
More than 30 people in the 5k, half-marathon and full marathon, as well as many of the spectators, had donned the T-shirts designed to honor two Kingsford sisters lost much too soon.
Becca Treml was just 10 years old when she died in a ski accident in 1997. Daughter of Jeff and Mary Treml, Becca was a fourth-grader at Woodland Elementary in Kingsford who enjoyed music, singing, bowling and eating pancakes.
“Becca was a joyful child. She had a great sense of humor, always bumbling and fumbling around. She was a loyal friend to many. Always trying to be the peacekeeper and protector on the bus. Becca and I would watch ‘TVs Funniest Home Videos’ and laugh so hard we’d cry. She was a treasure,” Mary Treml said.
Then, this past Dec. 30, the unthinkable happened: the Tremls lost a second daughter, Jolene, in an automobile accident.
The Kingsford High School senior was described as a very determined, hardworking and fun-loving 17-year-old “who could bring a smile to anyone’s face with her positive attitude and love for everyone.” She was a dietary aide at Freeman Nursing and Rehabilitation Community in Kingsford and had planned to pursue a nursing degree this fall at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College.
The day of Jolene’s funeral, Peg Groeneveld, who has run several races with Jeff Treml, said his brothers and sisters pulled her aside.
“‘Keep him running, keep him running; it’s going to help,'” Groeneveld said they told her.
Then Jolene’s first cousin, Katie Ross, remembered the Cellcom Green Bay Marathon was scheduled the same May weekend
they’d planned to have a graduation party for the teen.
It was decided then they would all participate in the Green Bay event.
Mary Treml designed the T-shirts with two sunflowers — Jolene’s favorite — along with the phrase “In loving honor, we run for Becca & Jolene Treml” on the front and “Team Treml” on the back.
Avanta Print produced the shirts. “Everyone bought extra shirts,” Groeneveld said, “for family members watching the event.”
Becca and Jolene’s sister, Sarah (Treml) Dennis and her husband, Jim, prepared a spaghetti dinner the night before the events were to start, to give the group a chance to get to know each other.
“It was just fun. Everybody came away and said what a fun weekend they had. Win or lose or place, we didn’t care. We knew why we were doing it and remembered who we’re doing it for, we are doing it for — the girls,” Groeneveld said.
Ross helped organize everyone taking part, ran her first half-marathon and was in the 5k as well, placing second in her division.
“Jolene was the inspiration to do it,” she said.
Jeff and Mary Treml were at every starting line and every finish.
“It is such a humbling experience when people come forward and give of their time and talents to help lift our spirits after two of our daughters died so tragically. All the people involved in our Team Treml run will always hold a special place in our hearts,” Mary Treml said.
Just two Team Treml members participated in the full marathon: Bryan Price of Kingsford, who qualified for the Boston Marathon with his time, and Brandon Rutter, who had run in only two other marathons.
“When the miles got hard, you remembered who you were running for,” Rutter said, adding, “Coming up on mile 26, I could see Jeff holding out his hand with a big smile on his face. That’s what made it worth it.”
Rutter’s daughter, Claire, also took part in her first 5k that day.
Groeneveld and Ross agreed the smile on Jeff and Mary’s face when they came through was all they needed.
“It was unbelievable. I would like to do it again. My goal is to continue it every year. The camaraderie was just unbelievable. It was one of the coolest events I have ever done,” Ross said.
“Everyone cheered each other on,” Groeneveld said, adding, “You will always see ‘Team Treml’ at the Cellcom race.”
Dickinson County Sheriff Scott Rutter ran his first half-marathon for the Tremls. His son, Nathan, was very good friends with Jolene, he explained.
“That made it special for me,” the sheriff said. “In 22 years of law enforcement, the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do was tell a family that they lost a loved one. The second-hardest thing was telling my son his friend passed away.”
Of the race, he said, “It was a pleasure and an honor to do it for the Tremls.”
He didn’t realize how many people had signed up to support the family.
“I couldn’t believe the amount of blue shirts. It was absolutely wonderful to see. When I was finishing the race, I saw Jeff was cheering at the finish, and I ran over and hugged him,” he said.
After a health issue kept Sharon Socia from running, Gina Drake agreed to walk the entire race with her friend. Afterwards, they had the medals awarded for finishing welded into the middle of a metal sunflower sculpture done at the Dickinson-Iron Vocational Education Center to look like the T-shirt design.
Kingsford High School welding teachers Andrew Paulsen and Daniel Mitchell helped with design, along with KHS students Logan and Wyatt Witte.
“We gave it to the Tremls as a gift, in remembrance of their daughters, Becca and Jolene,” Socia said, “and it has been placed at the cemetery.”
Theresa Proudfit can be reached at 906-774-2772, ext. 45, or firstname.lastname@example.org.