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.