Original article no longer available
The Portland Tribune
By STEVE BRANDON
Issue date: Fri, Aug 12, 2005
Ann Tracy, Ph.D., Executive Director of the International Coaltion for Drug Awareness, confirmed that this young girl was taking Prozac, not Zoloft, at the time of her suicide.
It’s a Tuesday night in the middle of summer, 90-plus degrees. Game time. Time for 2-on-2 basketball in the street outside Rick Reynolds’ well-maintained Southeast Portland home.
The players would never be picked first in any respectable pickup game. Their vertical leaps have mostly got up and left.
The eight members of Courtney’s League have no set plays to remember, only a girl.
Courtney Reynolds died March 8, 1990. She was a senior at Grant High, a member of the girls basketball team. She was 16. For 15 years, Rick, her father, has been playing in and running Courtney’s League, in her honor.
“People will tell you that time heals,” Reynolds says, “but time only makes you begin to forget. You could forget that she used to run around and play here, you could forget all the things she did at Grant, you could forget that she would be 32 now?”
“I don’t want to forget. I’ve chosen not to, but to instead keep her very much a part of my life. If you forget who she was, she doesn’t exist anymore.”
The call came on a Thursday evening, while Reynolds was waiting for Courtney to come home for dinner.
Your daughter is dead.
She died in her sleep.
At 8 a.m.
At her friend’s house.
Overdosed on her medication.
We’re terribly sorry.
“The night before, on the phone, she had asked me to pick up some French bread,” Reynolds remembers.
Authorities later determined that Courtney took her life. Her father says that may be true, although there will always be some question in his mind. He says Courtney had been taking two antidepressants, Desipramine and Zoloft, for six to eight months. “She always said it made her feel better,” he says.
Maybe recent boyfriend troubles led his only child to overdose. Or maybe, just maybe, the combination of the drugs proved more toxic than she thought it would be when she quietly swallowed too much Desipramine at 4 a.m.
“It wasn’t an accident, but maybe she didn’t mean to take her life,” says Reynolds, a club attendant and manager at Cascade Athletic Club in Gresham. “Usually people who do don’t have appointments or a life scheduled for after that. Courtney had other things planned.”
“She probably wanted to wake up the next morning and have everyone gathered around her telling her it was OK.”
The kid had confidence
Courtney was named after a daughter of Robert Kennedy; Rick worked for the Kennedy campaign before the candidate was assassinated while running for president in 1968.
Courtney’s parents were divorced when she was 5. “Courtney spent an equal amount of time at her mom’s in Northeast Portland,” Reynolds says. “But her mom is more private about her memory.”
Courtney attended Montessori preschool and skipped kindergarten and first grade, arriving at second grade at William Clark Elementary School at the ripe old age of 5. She loved to go with her dad to watch the Portland Winter Hawks play hockey. She wanted to be a police officer.
She was 5-foot-8, with dark hair and skin and no qualms about speaking up. Like when an NBA star approached her and said, “I’m Gary Payton,” as if to impress, and she replied, “I’m Courtney Reynolds.” Or when Dan Reed of the Dan Reed Network music group asked her out, and she told him: “I can?t. I’m 14!”
Reynolds says Courtney was “pretty well-adjusted and did well in school. She did speak her mind, and she could be emotional, and was prone to being a little impulsive.”
League goes official
Traffic is light around the Montavilla minicourt of Courtney?s League; occasionally, play stops so a car can pass.
In 1993, Reynolds had the league affiliated with the AAU. Each year, he continues the membership by paying a $50 fee. “That makes us part of USA Basketball, too,” he says.
Friends and neighbors serve various roles ?as referee, timekeeper, scorekeeper, fans. The games have seven-minute quarters. Each week, The Oregonian prints the scores, and Reynolds photocopies the standings and scoring leaders.
With one round left in the 2005 regular season, the team named Shockwave (team members are Keith and Andrew Seher) is 5-0. Varsity Club (Reynolds and Mark Lawson) are 3-2. Road Rage (Rick Cobb and Mike Williams) and Against All Odds (Ariane Carpenter and Brandon Rush) are both 1-4. The playoffs will take place Aug. 23 and 30.
“We have a lot of fun, and Courtney’s memory lives on,” says Carpenter, the only female player.
The rosters have changed through the years. Lawson is the only current player who knew Courtney.
“She was a lot of fun. She always had a smile on her face,” he says. “And Rick’s a great guy. He’ll do anything for you, anytime you need it.”
It’s hard the first game of every season, but it’s something for him to look forward to, to keep his energy going.
Reynolds appreciates all who have taken part in the league.
“I sometimes ask myself: “Who are these people” Why do they keep coming”” Maybe they are angels sent from heaven.
“I sometimes think ?this is the nutty part of it ?that when we?re playing, if we’d stop and look around, Courtney might be standing there, and that she?d thank all the players for being there.”
“I’ve never let go”
Inside Reynolds? immaculate home is a hallway with 19 framed photos of Courtney at various ages. The first door on the left leads to her room, which is kept almost exactly as it was when she died. The bedspread with multicolored hearts is unwrinkled.
A zoo of stuffed animals lies above it, as if perpetually sleeping. Courtney?s favorite posters ?of Michael Jordan, Marilyn Monroe, Elvis and Grant Sasser (her favorite Portland Winter Hawk player) ?remain tacked to the wall. Various colors of nail polish sit on the dresser, along with a 1987-88 edition of the Oregon Drivers? Manual and other books and knickknacks. A woolen Grant High sweater hangs from the ceiling.
“It took me five years till I could even go out on a date again,” Reynolds says. “Things were pretty blurry.”
Experts say the healing process begins when denial turns into acceptanc
“I remember my doctor telling me, “You’re never going to get past the first step,” Reynolds says. “Her death has always been unacceptable to me. The only thing is, I’ve accepted that it’s unacceptable, so in that respect I don’t dwell on it like I used to. But I’ve never let go. Experts will say that’s wrong, but I believe there is no right way and no wrong way to grieve a lost child. The way that’s best is the way that works for you.”
League has lasting power
John Martin, a Cascade Athletic Club manager who referees the games, lauds Reynolds for his work ethic and attitude.
“He makes a difference in everybody’s life that he touches. He’s awesome with every age group,” Martin says. “It’s unbelievable how many people he’s helped. And he’ll do whatever needs to be done, often without being asked. I’ve only known him for five years, and it seems like 15.”
The people and his job at the club have made a huge difference in his life, Reynolds says. He especially thanks Cascade Athletic Club owners Mark and Debbie Eisenzimmer, and Martin, who hired him five years ago.
“Because of them, and how they have accepted me, my life has changed so much,” he says.
Reynolds will turn 57 soon. Although he runs, stays active and keeps in shape, basketball is becoming more of a challenge.
“I always thought that if I made it to 50 with this league, that would be good, and we’re already seven years past that,” he says. “So I’m thinking maybe we’ll keep it going till I’m 60. I don’t know when the end will be.”