Friends gathered a final time for Linda Tully
Following a record-breaking volleyball season and just before finals, the Marquette senior suffered a brain injury that left her in a coma for 24 years.
Linda and some friends were hanging onto a car as it was driven down a snowy street when she fell. She died this past summer.
“She was a tough athlete. She had a phenomenal body and heart,” says her friend and volleyball teammate Mary Donohue Rachford, H Sci ’88. “That’s the reason she survived so long.”
It helped that Linda was surrounded by family and friends who never gave up, 350 of whom gathered for her funeral, including 40 to 50 Marquette classmates. “It was a real testament to the person she was,” Donohue Rachford says.
“Once you met Linda, you were her friend,” says Jim Seavey, Jour ’86, who covered women’s volleyball as a Marquette Tribune reporter. “You couldn’t help but like her.”
Maybe it had something to do with her smile. Linda’s father, Tom Tully, has described it as “disarming.” Seavey calls it “that little mischievous grin.” It was the first thing people tended to notice about Linda and also a clear indicator of the kind of person she was.
“Holy moly, there’s tons of them,” says former Marquette women’s volleyball coach Tat Shiely when asked to share a favorite memory of Linda. “Linda was a prankster. If you were looking for fun, you’d want to be where she was.”
Linda taped a sign reading “Our coach needs a date” on the team van. The practices where she reversed the bat-teries in the coach’s stopwatch to delay running sprints. And plenty of other pranks as well, though “nothing I’d want to see in print,” says Donohue Rachford, adding, “Our coach is still in the Milwaukee area, and that’d come back to bite me.”
“Whatever they remember is fine,” responds Shiely, “I’m not going to speak out of turn.”
Far from being mean-spirited, Linda’s pranks often served a useful purpose. “She always seemed to break the tension in a tough situation,” says Donohue Rachford.
“It was a very tight-knit group,” Seavey says of the team. “They were successful on the volleyball court, in the classroom, and they’ve gone on to do great things,” in part thanks to Linda’s influence.
Seavey chose a career in athletics rather than journalism as a result
of Linda’s “direct impact,” he says. Donohue Rachford became a physical therapist. Linda “really set me on the path,” she says. “There were many times I wanted to drop out, but she would keep me going.”
Part of Linda’s legacy to Shiely, she says, is the inspiration “to appreciate every day like she did. Because if you don’t, well, what a waste of time.” — JS
A Linda Tully Memorial Scholarship was established at Immaculate Conception High School, 217 Cottage Hill Ave., Elmhurst, Ill., 60126. Donations are welcome.