It’s not every day you go running with a neighbor and then hear about it on the radio.
Then again, most people didn’t have the pleasure of the late former White House press secretary, TV news anchor and radio talk show host Tony Snow for a neighbor.
Jay McConville and his Mount Vernon neighbor went for a run together a few years back, and the next day on the radio he heard Mr. Snow say Mr. McConville had smoked him.
“I thought he was doing fine,” Mr. McConville said, laughing fondly at this and other memories of his friend.
Mr. Snow died in July at age 53, after his second battle with colon cancer.
On Sunday, Mr. McConville plans to compete in the Nation’s Triathlon, and all the funds he raises will go to the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in honor of Mr. Snow.
“He was always a great guy in asking me how my racing was going,” said Mr. McConville, who has participated in a number of other triathlons, including the Nation’s Triathlon last year with Mr. Snow’s sister, Jenny.
“Jenny started a fundraising effort for cancer research, and decided to do the Nation’s Triathlon,” said Mr. McConville. “I asked if it would be all right if I did that race too, and so together we both had our fundraising Web sites, and we did well. Tony came to the race, and was really excited about it.”
Together they raised $13,000.
This year, however, Mr. McConville was unsure about participating. “At first I wasn’t going to do it, and then thought, well, he’d want to do it, and he’d want me to do it. It’s a good thing to do for him.”
Mr. McConville got out of the Army in 1996 and moved with his family to a scenic neighborhood off the George Washington Parkway in Mount Vernon. As Mr. McConville and his wife, Sue, got to know their neighbors, they soon discovered that one of them was a celebrity. Mr. Snow at that time was the host of Fox News Sunday.
Mr. Snow had earlier been editorial page editor of The Washington Times from 1987 to 1991.
The families became friends. Their children knew each other and went to the same grade school, and their wives also spent time together, Mr. McConville said. Soon the two men began playing together in a charity band called Beats Workin’ - which was in demand because of Mr. Snow’s fame.
The band, consisting of seven members, played at various locations, including the Ronald Reagan Building, National Press Club and the White House, Mr. McConville said. Mr. Snow played the flute, saxophone and guitar, while Mr. McConville sang and occasionally played the trumpet.
Mr. McConville smiles as he recalls the times he and Mr. Snow carpooled to band practice together. During the 45-minute rides to McLean, Mr. McConville enjoyed picking his brain and talking to him about various topics.
“He just knew everything that was going on,” Mr. McConville said. “I do tell people though that Tony changed me a little bit politically, in that he was very respectful and he always gave everybody the benefit of the doubt. He was so accomplished in everything, but yet at the same time, he never made you feel bad about yourself.”
In June, Mr. McConville participated in the Iron Man Triathlon. Throughout the training, Mr. Snow kept tabs. “He always asked me how it was going, and at this time he was getting sicker and sicker, but he still kept asking how my training was going. And when I ran, I had his Tony Snow bracelet on, and I was thinking of him. He was kind of inspirational that way.”
Mr. McConville is collecting donations on his Web site at www.jayracinforcancer.pledgepage.org, which he started last year when he began fundraising with Mr. Snow’s sister.
“The key is that we hope out of this, everyone is having fun at the race,” Mr. McConville said. “We hope that we can use that as a vehicle for people to do good for others, help cancer research come along - every little bit helps. It’s kind of bittersweet this year. He was there last year with me and his sister, and he was just so thrilled that everybody was coming up to him and everything. We won’t have him this year, but he’ll still be there in spirit.”