Fairall Remembered as Track Coach, Mentor and Friend

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The University of Windsor hosted a celebration of life for track legend Dennis Fairall, who lost his battle with a brain disorder on Nov. 6.

Friends and family of "The Big Dawg" tuned in via livestream as Fairall was honoured at the fieldhouse that bears his name in the St. Denis Centre at 2555 College Ave. in Windsor Saturday.

UWindsor coach Rich Coughlin's journey started on the track under Fairall and continued beside him on the sidelines. He says Fairall had a gift for seeing potential in people, even if they didn't.

"Despite my mediocre efforts as an athlete, Dennis asked me to join the coaching staff two years later," he says. "I may not have listened as an athlete, but I would not dissappoint him as a coach."

Coughlin says in life and on the track, everyone was special to Fairall — every point mattered and everyone had something to contribute.

"Track is an individual sport. It's just you in your lane, there's no one to pass you the ball," he says. "On top of that, you actually compete against your teammates, but Dennis turned that into team goals and took a me attitude and made it into a we attitude."

Olympian and former Lancer track star Melissa Bishop-Nriagu says Fairall was her coach, her mentor and her friend.

"My daughter knows that my job is running, you did that Dennis, you built an empire and left a legacy so great that you will forever be remembered," she added.

Fairall's widow Janet shared him with the track world and says everyone is better for it.

"This is true for so many for you, but also for me and our family. Dennis brought me the world and now he's answering his final boarding call and I only hope that his journey is first class," she says.

Fairall is a member of the Windsor-Essex County Sports Hall of Fame and one of the most decorated track coaches in the history of Canadian Inter-University Sport over his 30-years leading the Lancers.

He was 67 years old.