by Lindsay Miller
Regen Jewett was known as a “fisher of men” according to the eulogy read at his funeral.
In fact, Fishing for Regen might actually be a more appropriate way to remember him,” jokes his friend since seventh grade, Clint Atkins. Regardless of what’s happening in their lives, every year a group of friends gathers together in April on the day of the St. Jude Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon to either run, support, or catch up with one another. They’re bound by a subject that remains near and dear to their hearts.
Regen graduated high school from Montgomery Bell Academy, a preparatory day school for young men in grades 7 through 12, off Harding Pike here in Nashville. Among the many private schools in Nashville, what is better known as MBA, saw success in baseball and football, two sports in which Regen played.
“Regen might have been a little scant on the football field,” Aktins jokes. “But what he lacked in size, he made up for in heart.”
“Regen always appreciated the opportunities and relationships sports gave him, Katie Downey, a former girlfriend of Regen, says. “He had such a good experience in high school and I don’t think everyone can say that. I know he attributed the man he became to his experiences at [MBA].”
Downey and Regen met at the University of Tennessee where they both attended college. After graduating, they spend two years in Atlanta before moving back home to Nashville.
“In 2014 I asked him to train with me for the St. Jude Marathon. He, of course, said wanted to run the full [marathon], but the first one he ever did he only made it to mile 6,” Downey smiles. “It was really rough on him. He had to take three days off work just to recover. I think all of his toenails actually fell off too,” she cringes. From the looks of it, Regen didn’t run marathons on the regular.
“Regen was a fisherman and a real outdoorsman, so he was always working out and staying fit,” says Aktins. “But running was really my thing,“ Downey adds. “He was always so supportive of me and this was just another way for him to do that.”
So he did, throwing himself in whole heartedly. “We had a blast running together that year,” Downey recalls.
In the summer of 2014, on the fourth of July, Regen went out early in his fishing boat on Old Hickory Lake. After meeting up with some friends to celebrate America’s Birthday, Regen fell asleep on a raft. Drifting off, he hit his head and slipped into the water. Officials later found his body, but by this time there was no chance at resuscitating him.
Downey said the following year she knew Regen would have wanted her to run again. As most runners know, especially long distance runners, a marathon is no small accomplishment. It is hours of mental toughness and heavy breathing. It is a constant self evaluation and measure of your will. But Downey was not the only one to show up for the race that year.
“Regen always liked to wear tank tops,” Atkins smiles. After word got out that they had made some tank tops in his name, friends and strangers alike gathered to support the cause. Downey would no longer be running alone. Even though she never really was.
“He was such an inclusive guy,” Atkins affirms about his long time friend. “His passing made us realize he had such an expansive friend group and it really spurred the continuation of the event. He had the respect of so many people and he was the type of guy that just wasn’t afraid to hurt your feelings,” Atkins admits. “You didn’t cringe at his next comment because you knew it was true and spoken from the heart.”
Running with Regen quickly became a tradtion and since then it’s sparked numerous other ways to honor Regen’s name and how he lived his life.
A college buddy of Regen’s raffles off a fishing guide tour every year at the Delta Waterfowl Banquet in Guntersville, Alabama and donates the proceeds to a scholarship set up in his name. MBA collects this money for the Regen Jewett Scholarship. After three years the scholarship is about half way funded, giving someone with less opportunity the chance to appreciate high school the way Regen did.
Much like Regen met his best friends in high school and felt strongly about the connections he had made there, his friends wanted to pass this experience on to someone else in need. Regen even wore his high school ring all throughout college, which not a lot of people do.
“Running for Regen isn’t about the revenue stream at all,” Aktins assures. “We want to keep his spirit alive because every year we find out he meant a lot to a lot of people. It’s more of an opportunity for all of us to stay in touch and get together to remember what kind of person he was. He had that sort of impact on people just by being himself.”
After the race, the group always meets up at Acme Feed and Seed downtown to share a drink and swap old stories about their friend. The first year, 70 people gathered to be a part of a new tradition. The following year, 100 people bought the tank top. They only hope as awareness grows, so does the scholarship fund.
“The funny thing is,” Downey admits. “Regen didn’t even like running. It was something he did for me. And that is the type of person he was; just a good, kind person. Because of him, there are friendships that have happened and lasted. He created the type of community we want to keep together, so we’re trying to follow his example as much as we possibly can.”
Along with some friends, Downey says she’ll be running the St. Jude Marathon again this year, donning her usual Running with Regen tank top with #64 on the back: Regen’s high school football number. If you happen to see any of them, make sure you yell loud so they can hear you.
If you’re interested in donating to the Regen Jewett Scholarship fund, running with the group, or purchasing a tank top, you can do so through the following outlets on the following page.