TOLEDO, OH (Toledo News Now) - If you attend the Race for the Cure event in Toledo, you've no doubt seen Team Lu-Lu there, honoring their friend Linda Key.
The team has been participating in the race for Linda for years, but this year they aren't the only ones: This year's Toledo Race for the Cure is named in memory of her.
Linda passed away in 2011, but her legacy lives on.
"She's all over the office still, and I talk to her when I'm leaving late at night. 'Oh, Linda, this is another late one – wish you were here!'" said Cheryl Wendt.
Linda was Cheryl's business partner at Wendt/Key Realty for 10 years. Linda, a smart, savvy business woman, was affectionately known by family and friends as Lu-Lu, a compassionate breast cancer survivor who always reached out to help others.
"She has talked to groups [and] individuals one-on-one about being a cancer survivor. That was very important to her, because she knew how it feels to be scared, to be out there and [you] don't know what's gonna happen," said Linda's husband David Beck.
First diagnosed in 1993, Linda's cancer returned in 2008. She amazed everyone with her positive attitude, even when chemotherapy caused her hair to fall out.
"We laughed about it. We went and bought wigs," Beck said. "She wore wigs for a few days then said, 'This is too hot,' whipped it off and wore caps the rest of the time."
Linda even took pictures in her hats and used them for a promotional postcard that she sent to her clients and friends.
"Her motto was, 'I'm living with cancer. I'm not dying from it,' so that became our motto, too, and we made remission our mission," Wendt said.
Part of that mission was to raise awareness and money to fight breast cancer. Team Lu-Lu made a splash at Komen Race for the Cure events with their bright costumes and pink ribbon stickers.
"She looked forward to the Race for the Cure," Beck said. "She would tell everyone to get involved and she wanted to raise money for the cure."
Team Lu-Lu became one of the top fundraisers by holding an annual drive-through hot dog lunch event at the realty office the Friday before the race. That event raises about $4,000 a year.
But by 2010, Linda could tell the cancer was getting the better of her.
"She went in for ultrasounds and more tests and found it was metastasized, and that's when she really went downhill," Beck said.
Always the feisty Irishwoman, Linda let the road to heaven rise up to meet her the day after St. Patrick's Day, 2011.
"She just on an appointment with God," Wendt said. "It's a huge loss, but we talk about her all the time. She's here with us. We have what we call the shrine in the office, so we're always talking about her and she's still here…She's always with us – always."
For their friend, Cheryl and the rest of Team Lu-Lu have continued the fight. This year, they started "Pink Day at the Bay," an event at Put-In-Bay, which raised about $7,000,
"We've got two survivors - Carol Belcher and Diane Hammonds - here in the office, so we're touched," Wendt said. "We're touched by Linda and we want to keep the legacy moving forward."
This year, Lu-Lu's legacy will be remembered in a big way, as the Toledo Race for the Cure is named in memory of Linda Key.
"She's watching us, doing whatever she can to help us," Beck said. "It's just we can't see her. She'll be at the Race for the Cure. She'll be there."