Sometime after her bigger-than-life Strongman spouse had died, perhaps in her slumber or in her waking hour, perhaps in a vision or glancing at a picture of the tall, smiling behemoth with the wide, toothy grin, the thought slowly crept into Callie Marunde’s consciousness.
How can anyone live up to my husband?
Turns out no one had to.
Marunde, the widow of world Strongman competitor Jesse Marunde and owner of the Marunde Muscle gym and personal training site, is moving to Las Vegas to unite with her soon-to-be fiance, Strongman competitor Nick Best.
"There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t miss him," Callie says of Jesse, a popular figure in the Sequim community who brought Strongman competitions to the Irrigation Festival each year before his July 2007 death.
"I have to do what is right and start my family," Callie says, as Jessica Joy, the daughter she had with Jesse, romps around the living room in a home next to the Marunde Muscle gymnasium on Towne Road.
Callie says she’s also moving the business to Las Vegas but will try to do some personal training via the Marunde Muscle Web site (marunde muscle.com).
The 29-year-old Marunde said she met Best, now 40, at a competition in November 2008 and struck up a friendship.
That relationship blossomed, but the Sequim woman said she considered carefully this major change to her family.
"I kept it real private," Callie says of her relationship with Best. "I wasn’t out shopping. I made sure that he met my criteria.
"He is tender and caring and compassionate. He’s strong and has good leadership qualities. He is humble (and he) celebrates Jesse the same way we all do. It’s a good fit."
Callie introduced Best to her family – the Marunde clan – in August 2008.
"Jesse’s family is my family," Callie says. "I think they expected it."
Best has an 8-year-old son named Dylan. Marunde says she envisions moving to Las Vegas and living there for a few years but hinted at moving back to Sequim in the not-too-distant future.
"I’m excited for the weather and the outside swimming. I’ll definitely miss the small-town atmosphere."
She knows many friends and family particularly will miss Jessica, the blond bundle of smiles and gleams of mischievousness some detected in her father.
"She already knows who (Jesse) is," Callie says. "I don’t think she’ll understand how great he was until she’s older."
Jesse Marunde, a 1998
Sequim High School graduate, met Callie Michney in 2002 at a competition in her home state of Ohio. They were married in 2004. Jesse went on to compete in a number of national and international strength competitions, finishing second in the 2005 MetRx World’s Strongest Man.
The two started Marunde Muscle in 2004, a training facility and Web site promoting exceptional strength routines and quality eating habits.
Jesse died on July 25, 2007, from an enlarged heart, after a typically intense workout in Sequim.
Since his death, Callie Marunde has kept the personal training business going and hosted the Sequim Irrigation Festival Strongman contest, now named in her late husband’s honor.
"I’m more sad about leaving Sequim than I was (from) Ohio," Callie says. "I will always consider Sequim my home."
This year the competition saw seven competitors, one of them the Herculean Best of Las Vegas. Best won the competition.
Now the two share matching tattoos on their ring fingers where they intend engagement rings to go.
Best, her fiance, who knew Jesse Marunde from competitions and considered Jesse a friend, isn’t trying to live up to his friend’s memory, Callie says.
"His shoes are not meant to be filled," she says. "This is a new chapter to the book. Jesse’s chapter will never close."
Reach Michael Dashiell at firstname.lastname@example.org.