Friends, family to celebrate life of newscaster, triathlete Saturday
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — When she was 76, Elizabeth Brackett collected her fifth world title by winning her age division in the ITU World Triathlon Grand Finale held in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.
The finish in the standard distance triathlon inspired Sports Illustrated to feature Brackett, a retired, Emmy Award-winning newscaster, as part of the magazine’s “Faces in the Crowd” feature.
“She got into people’s lives around her and wound up inspiring them to do things that they had not thought about doing,” Brackett’s husband, Peter Martinez, said. “She was an inspiration in terms of her daring.”
This week, many of those who knew Brackett will gather from 4 to 6 p.m. Saturday at The Ranch in Steamboat Springs to celebrate her life. She died in early June from injuries suffered in a bicycling accident along Lakeshore Trail in Chicago while training.
Martinez said his wife of 20 years was an inspiration not only for what she accomplished as a triathlete but for the example she set in her everyday life.
She spent more than 40 years as a reporter and newscaster in Chicago, where she worked for four different stations and was a correspondent for WTTW’s “Chicago Tonight” as well as “The PBS NewsHour.” She also wrote “Pay to Play: How Rod Blagojevich Turned Political Corruption Into a National Sideshow” about the former Illinois governor.
During her career as a journalist, Brackett covered presidential, mayoral and gubernatorial races as well as the Chicago financial exchanges and the Chicago Bulls. Some of the larger stories she reported on included the 1980 Democratic National Convention in New York, the Challenger Disaster in 1986, the Exxon Valdez oil spill and hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
What: Celebration of life for Elizabeth Brackett
When: 4 to 6 p.m. Saturday
Where: The Ranch, 1800 Ranch Road
She was recognized with five Emmy Awards, two Peter Lisagor Awards for Business Journalism, a national Peabody Award and was inducted into the Silver Circle of the Chicago Midwest Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.
Brackett and her husband lived full time in Chicago but spent the months of July and January in Steamboat Springs, where they enjoyed the active mountain lifestyle and made many longlasting friendships.
Brackett was a member of the Over The Hill Gang, skiing with the group in the winter and cycling with them in the summer.
“She was just an incredible combination of smart, passionate, committed and disciplined,” said Valerie Davia, Brackett’s training partner and friend. “She was always fun and incredibly supportive of everyone.”
Davia introduced Brackett to personal trainer Marietta Roberts.
“When they told me that she was a five-time World Champion … I thought of course I want to meet with her, I want to help her train,” Roberts said.
Roberts said Brackett was always positive and self assured but never boastful.
“She has done all this stuff in her life,” Roberts said. “But even with everything that she did, she always kept it to herself. When we trained together, she did everything I wanted her to do, and she was very humble.”
Brackett competed in her first triathlon at the age of 50 and was immediately a standout in her age division. Martinez said his wife had an athletic background as a diver in high school and then college.
Martinez said triathlons were not only a competitive outlet for Brackett but also a chance to find adventure. She competed in triathlons in Australia, Canada, Germany and Mexico and typically set aside two weeks after each competition to soak up the food, the scenery and the culture of each location in the days following the event.
In Steamboat, the couple enjoyed skiing, hiking and socializing with friends.
“Whether she was competing in reporting or competing in sports or just sitting around, she was the most competitive person that I’ve ever met,” said longtime Steamboat friend Bill Dring “We used to go on a campout in January to a yurt and a campout in the summer, and when we would each cook a meal, hers had to be the best. Everything that she did was just superlative.”
Brackett is survived by her husband; her daughter Ilsa Wallich and her husband, Dennis; her son Jon Brackett, and his wife, Laura; and 10 grandchildren. She also leaves behind stepchildren Lisa Nuzzo, Stephanie Martinez, Jonathan Martinez and Matthew Martinez, two sisters Ellen Rieger and Jill Swisher and six nieces and nephews.
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