Trusted local news leader for the Grand Canyon
Tue, Oct. 15

LETTER: Saddened by loss of couple

To the editor:

I was so saddened to read about the tragic deaths of Maverick and Shirley Gaudreau. My husband and I first met Maverick while hiking the South Kaibab Trail in October 2006. We passed him as he was coming up the trail and stopped to chat with him. He told us about his marathon rim-to-rim hikes and we were shocked to learn that he had completed more than 80 such expeditions in honor of his 80th birthday earlier that year.

I thought about Maverick often over the next few months. I wanted to hike with him and write about it for an outdoor magazine, so I called and ask him if he would let me tag along on one of his rim-to-rim hikes and agree to be interviewed for a story about our journey. He did more than just say yes. He sent me newspaper articles about his ultra-light backpacking style and talked to me over the phone at length about his passion for the canyon and its trails. He described the Grand Canyon as his greatest love next to his wife, Shirley.

We made plans to hike across the Canyon together in June 2007. Maverick secured the necessary backcountry permits and we wrote letters back and forth for the next few months. But when my husband and I arrived at the Canyon, Shirley gave us some disappointing news. Maverick was on an overnight hike in the Canyon and wouldn't be able to hike with us the next morning as planned. Shirley explained that there was a blood drive at the canyon that day, and Maverick thought it was important for him to stay home and donate blood because it could help save injured hikers. She relayed his apologies that he wouldn't be able to make the journey with us, and made plans to meet us at the backcountry office the next morning to give us our permit.

We met Shirley at the office bright and early the next morning. We tried to give her money for the permit, but she refused, saying that Maverick just wanted us to go and have a good time. She hugged us both and wished us luck on our hike.

My husband and I completed our rim-to-rim over the course of two days. It was a memorable and life-changing experience and we have Maverick and Shirley to thank for that.

We had planned to stop by and see them the next time we visited the Canyon. Even though we only knew them for a short time, we considered them our friends like so many other people did. My heart goes out to their families and to all of you at the Grand Canyon who knew and loved Maverick and Shirley. They will be missed.

Allison Mitkowski

Milford, Conn.

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