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King Here: for Porter Topmiller, there’s a double meaning

Trish Porter Topmiller, a 1988 U.S. Olympian in the high jump, has written a book about her relationship with her late father, Chuck King.
ADOLPHE PIERRE-LOUIS/JOURNAL

Chuck King imbued his daughter, Trish, with athletic genes, a work ethic, a generosity of spirit and a sense of adventure.

It was something she had and he did not, though, and something she desperately wanted him to have, that’s the theme of her recently published book, “King Here,” about her relationship with her late father.

The book has a sub-title as well, but that’s for later.

And as far as that thing Trish Porter Topmiller so fervently wished for her dad, let’s just say the book has a bittersweet, yet optimistic, ending.

“I didn’t start out to write a book,” Topmiller said during a recent interview at her home in the Albuquerque foothills. “Really, what happened is, I spoke at his funeral (in August  2017) and the outline kind of came to me there.”

About those athletic genes, and that work ethic:

Chuck King was a star gymnast in his teens and at Dartmouth College, though the school didn’t sponsor a varsity gymnastics program. He went on to make a fortune in real estate and as a venture capitalist.

Her father was not a pushy Little League dad, Topmiller said, though he did threaten to sue if his daughter was not allowed to play Little League baseball with and against the boys. But he encouraged and expected his children, Trish, Charlie and Mike, to excel in whatever they did.

“He didn’t live and breathe (his kids’ athletic pursuits),” she said, “because he was working. … (But) he wanted to see how good of an athlete he could kind of produce in some sense, so he exposed me to a lot of different sports, which gave me a good foundation athletically.”

Excel? Trish King did just that. She’s a 1988 Olympian in the high jump and an age-group high jump world champion and world record holder. Before that, she was an all-everything athlete in Menlo Park, Calif. Even before that, she was little Trish, a girl who wanted to and did, in large part thanks to her dad, play Little League baseball.

For all the above, Topmiller has received considerable media coverage over the course of her life.

The past seven years, though, have been relatively quiet.

On July 26, 2012, Topmiller’s husband, Pat Porter, her 15-year-old son Connor and Connor’s friend Connor Mantsch were killed when Pat’s private plan crashed upon takeoff in Sedona, Arizona.

Topmiller had stopped competing in Masters track-and-field the previous year. Since then, before and after the tragedy, she’s done some private high-jump coaching. Most of her athletic energies, though, have been devoted to the figure-skating career of her daughter, Shannon,  now 18.

In 2016, friends introduced her to James Topmiller, an Albuquerque civil engineer. They married four months later.

Her Christian faith, Trish said, had helped her deal with the crushing loss of Pat and Connor. It was an experience and faith shared by James, who had lost his first wife the year before.

“For me, I clung to ‘I trust you, Lord,’” she said. “… The interesting thing was, when I met James, I asked him on our first date, ‘How are you doing with the loss of your wife?’ And he said, ‘I’m doing fine. God is good.’

“I lost my breath for a second, because that was the one statement I could not say since the accident. … It kind of filled the gap for me. It was what I needed.”

These were beliefs not shared by her father, who was struggling with the loss of Debe, his second wife, who died in March 2016.

We’ll say no more, since that’s what Topmiller’s book is about.

“King Here,” she said, is how her father typically answered the phone. “And the message on his machine was ‘King not here, speak at the beep.’

“But (the title) has the double entendre of also God, the great king, saying, ‘I’m here, listen to this story from the Lord’s perspective.’”

Now, about that subtitle: It’s “Never Too Old, Never Too Rich, Never To Anything To meet Jesus.”

Topmiller, 57, underwent a hip replacement five months ago but remains active, often hiking near her home. She’s assisting Shannon, who trains and attends college in Colorado Springs, with her rehab from a broken ankle. She’s president of the U.S. Olympians and Paralympians Association’s New Mexico chapter.

And she’s enjoying the buzz created by “King Here” — a series of book signings,  a string of five-star reviews on Amazon and a couple of award nominations.

This is Topmiller’s second book. Her first, “Rekindle Your Dreams,” was published in 2010 and, she said, “encourages women to live their dreams and never think it’s too late.”

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