My friend, Gene R. Rodgers passed away recently after a short illness. He was 67.

In my column, in the Santa Fe New Mexican, July 16, 2022, I shared with readers his adventurous life captured in his newly published memoir, Awesome by Accident, available on Amazon.

When Rodgers was 17, he fell from a cliff, rock climbing and lived the rest of his life as a quadriplegic with out the use of his arms and legs.

We met working at New Vistas in Santa Fe, in the early 1980’s. The organization was selected to start the first Center for Independent Living.

Rodgers, fresh from Cleveland, with a master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling, worked as a peer counselor for the center.

Independent living was considered a movement in the 1970’s and with the federal funding in 1979, provided through the Rehabilitation Act, programs were funded throughout the country.

Rodgers’ warm personality, quick humor and knowledge of the social services system helped increase opportunities for many people in New Mexico.

He also worked at the Center on Disability, University of California, Northridge and headed the Texas Assistive Technology Program.

He traveled around the world seeking adventures whenever he could. He even joined a trek to the Mount Everest basecamp, where he met former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson, who would successfully climb to the summit that year.

Rodgers had to be evacuated the next day by helicopter after his blood pressure dropped to critical levels.

Although he had many daring adventures and a long work career, he continued volunteering after retirement.

He co-hosted the Gene and Dave Show, a disability-focused TV show aired on Austin public access channel.

He lived independently, and set his goals high, achieving more than most of us.

He could break the ice on issues that needed to be addressed, with legislators, government officials, business owners and frustrated people trying to access services.

In the 1980’s he even talked the former owner of Tomasitas, Georgia Maryol into constructing a van accessible parking space long before it was required by law.

The parking space is right next to the restaurant entrance and was a model for other businesses.

He believed that life was worth living no matter what your circumstances.

He was an optimist who took risks, jumping from planes, Scuba diving, bungy jumping, moving to a new job, in a new town or state and traveling to find a new adventure wherever it was.

We continued to work together over the years in various roles, most recently serving together to review grants for the Reeve Foundation.

He was an important member of our family who called every year to wish my wife and her mom happy Mother’s Day.

Our family will always cherish the memories of having him in our lives. It broke my heart to lose him.

A celebration of Rodgers’ life is planned for Saturday, May 6th, 1:00 pm CST. Livestream:

In 2007 my wife talked me into writing a story for an Albuquerque Journal contest. The winner would get a free membership to Albuquerque Fit, a 14 week run-walk program. Winning the contest was a life changer. I had been overtraining for years. My injuries and a progressive disk disorder had prevented me from getting to a marathon start line. Now in my late 50’s I was injury free and ready to try again. Here is the story.
Why I Want To Run a Marathon by Andy Winnegar

I am 57 years old. I was born and raised in Albuquerque. I have been running sixteen to twenty miles a week for at least 20 years.

Most recently I have been running with my Britney Spaniel—Tommy. Tommy provides me with companionship and I provide him with the opportunity to scent the neighborhood. One day I was running on the Santa Fe Rail Trail near my house and tripped on a tree root. It was one of those slow motion falls where you watch yourself going down. When I looked up Tommy was standing over me protecting me from any predators that might come my way. What a dog!

Tommy also helps me with interval or fartlek (speed play) training. This occurs whenever a person or dog is within his sight, smell or hearing distance. Although, I am not able to determine when or where this will happen, I have been able to take advantage of these unique training opportunities. He just takes off and pulls me with him.

I have discovered a new technique for running with a dog, which might help other dog owners. I use a thin luggage strap around my waist secured to the leash. I position the strap a little above my hips. Rather than being jerked by the arm, my hands are free to provide balance and energy. I am pulled from the center of my body, and my hips are directly under my upper body.

My wife Judy and I have been runners since 1980. We taught our kids to run starting around age 2. We have even taken running vacations many times to places like Stanley Park, in Vancouver BC, just to run the 8 mile seawall.

Interestingly and accidentally, we have run with the senior President George H.W Bush twice. Once in Portland Oregon, when he was Vice President we noticed around the track we were ending our run on there were men in suits standing as we passed. I said, “What’s going on?” No response. Then here comes the Vice President with a young pretty runner by his side. Later we learned it was the Mayor of Portland’s daughter.

A few years later we were running in Kennebunkport, Maine and we passed one another again and going in opposite directions. At the time, I was running bent over at the waist due to a back injury. He said “Are you alright?” as we passed. I admired his commitment to running. He was an inspiration to me really.

I love to run. I like to train and I want to run a marathon.


I talked my friend Kurt Steinhaus into also joining ABQ Fit and traveling with me to Albuquerque at 5 AM on Saturdays for the 14 weeks of training. I ran the Humboldt Redwood Marathon in October, 2007 with wife Judy who ran the half marathon. Surprisingly I placed 3rd in my age group with a 4:01. I have run in 15 marathons since then finishing 10. I PR’ d twice with the same time of 3:38 at age 61 and 62 at the California International Marathon. Tommy died at age 12 in 2012.

Training to Train

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My Final Marathon

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The Canyon City Marathon from the San Gabriel Mountains to Azusa LA County California on November 7th was my last marathon. I placed 3rd for my age group: 3:56:40. I have run in 15 of these 26.2 mile torture tours since a little before my 58th birthday. I agreed to run the Chicago Marathon October […]

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2014 Boston Marathon — No Looking At My Watch

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Boston Marathon Race Details: Luckily I found Sam in the hotel elevator the night before the race. I didn’t have any safety pins for my bib. I ran with Hilary who had asked earlier that we run by feel; although, I had done this last year, feeling my foot for 7 miles. Hilary didn’t want […]

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Big Cottonwood Marathon – Sept 14, 2013

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Today is the marathon. It’s 2 am and I’m heading downstairs to the lobby to grab a banana. I’m kicking myself for not buying one yesterday and worried they may run out if I wait. The hotel van will take runners at 3 am and 4 am to the bus pickup location. The bus driver […]

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My Boston Marathon Experience – April 15, 2013

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I believe I was the first injured person out of 27K runners at the 2013 Boston Marathon at mile 7, which is impressive. Yet, I started the marathon injured. My daughter tried to get me to walk the rest of the race, but the staff wouldn’t let me leave the medical station. I believe my […]

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