NOVEMBER 21, 1955
Our editors didn't know it then, but in selecting SI cover subjects in 1955, they were tempting fate. On our March 14 cover that year was a smiling, freckle-faced, 18-year-old skier from Steamboat Springs, Colo., named Wallace (Buddy) Werner. The Oct. 3 cover featured 28-year-old NFL halfback Doak Walker, then in the final season of his celebrated career with the Detroit Lions. The Nov. 21 cover was graced by another skier, Buddy's 21-year-old sister, Skeeter, who inside that issue advised readers on proper warmup exercises for the slopes: "Jump up and over a pillow...from one side to the other without pausing.... Stand on one leg with arms extended for better balance...."
The Werners would soon head for Cortina d'Amprezzo, in the Italian Dolomites, as members of the 1956 U.S. Winter Olympics team. Walker, whose life would become entwined with the Werner family's, would soon embark on a career in the construction industry after playing on two championship Lions teams, winning the NFL scoring title twice and making All-Pro five out of six seasons. He had entered the NFL after three All-America seasons at SMU, where he won the '48 Heisman.
Neither Werner would ever win an Olympic medal. Skeeter, born Gladys, retired after competing in three events (her best finish was 10th in the downhill) at the 1956 Games. Buddy was peaking as the '60 Olympics approached but broke his leg eight weeks before the Games began. At the '64 Olympics he was eighth in the slalom and 17th in the downhill. Two months later he was skiing near St. Moritz, filming a fashion documentary, when he was killed in an avalanche.
By then Skeeter had opened a ski shop in Steamboat Springs and was giving lessons. One of her pupils in the winter of 1968 was a handsome former football hero she knew of vaguely. "I knew all about Bobby Layne," she says. "Buddy and my brother Loris were fans of Bobby's and wore his number on the high school team." But Layne's old Lions teammate Doak Walker was pretty much a stranger to her. Not for long. After a whirlwind romance they married in Las Vegas.
Today they live in Steamboat Springs and still ski. "Doak's a superior athlete," Skeeter says. "He became a great skier." Neither knew until SI's 25th anniversary party, 10 years after they married, that they'd each been on our cover a month apart.