Saturday, March 25, 2006

 

FRIENDS LOST

You know it's been bad when your first blog post in a week starts out with obituaries. Alas, when you reach a certain age, these things become more common. I think the sense of loss becomes greater too. Three people who became a part of my life passed this week. One was nationally famous, one was famous locally here in Michiana, and one knew no fame except among a large group of family and friends. I would like to start off with her.

Phyllis Whitten passed away this week in Pontiac MI. She was more than my best friend's mom. She was the person who in many ways helped save a number of troubled young people from themselves. I was one of those young people. At a time when my own parents were clueless how to deal with me, Phyllis knew. She had a knack for offering sage advice without making it seem pushy. She knew how to differentiate between the serious and the merely annoying, and was smart enough to laugh about the latter.

She lived in a small house on Pontiac's east side with her husband and 6 children. The house was always alive, not only with her own brood, but with a constantly changing cast of teens from the neighborhood and church. Phyllis held court from the kitchen table, the ever present coffee cup and cigarette in hand. What she lacked in stature, she made up for with an iron will, determination, and the willingness to thump you on the back of the head if necessary. When you entered her domain, you always felt immediately at home. No matter how tight times were, she was always prepared to feed whatever small army the kids dragged in, and always with good humor. A true rarity, she actually enjoyed the company of teenagers, and even more rare, understood them, right down to the sardonic jokes that flew over other parents heads. She never held you in judgment, rather, she found ways to bring out the good things in you.

Although things slowed down in her senior years, little really changed. A visit to Phyllis' always found her at the dining table, at least one child, grandchild, neighbor, or old friend sitting and chatting. Still holding court, coffee cup and cigarette still in hand.

Phyllis was more than ready to go. She was impatient to. Her health had been failing for years, and she was tired. I realize I should be happy for her, but in my own selfishness, I am allowing myself to be sad. Phyllis Whitten was a force in my life when it really needed one. I shall always be indebted.
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For thirty years, Dick Addis was a member of nearly every Michiana household. He came into your home every evening, usually twice, and you kinda felt lost if you missed him. He was OUR weatherman, and he took that job extremely serious.

In many ways, Addis was something of a television pioneer. At a time when TV weather was an afterthought at all but the largest market stations, Addis made local weather his job, not his sidelight. He worked tirelessly at it, and his record was amazing. As a truck driver driving the southern shore of Lake Michigan 6 nights a week, I depended on his forecast. If it disagreed with the National Weather Service's forecast, I always trusted Addis'. He rarely disappointed me!

Perhaps the greatest tribute to Addis is simply this. Both the weatherman at his home station, WNDU, and it's rival, WSBT, are on record as saying Addis is the reason they wanted to become meteorologists when they grew up. What better legacy than that?
**************************************************************************

As a baby truck driver driving into the Loop six nights a week, there was one radio station I could listen to without ever having to change a channel. Clear channel WGN in Chicago. For the next 10 years I had three night time companions. Radio personalities Bob Collins and Milt Rosenberg, and De Paul Blue Demons basketball. I became a huge De Paul fan, even risking life and limb to root for them at the ACC when they played ND. And the reason I was such a big fan was simple. Coach Ray.

It was simply impossible not to love Ray Meyer. The sweet personality, the boyish, impish grin, his obvious love for his "kids" and for the game. Ray Meyer brought out the best in his players, and in his city. He went from being the captain of the Notre Dame basketball team to coach at De Paul, spent parts of four decades at the job, including winning a national championship. He then spent another decade as the analyst on De Paul basketball broadcasts. For fifty years, Ray Meyer was the face of De Paul University. He brought the college to national attention, and watched with pride as it grew not only into a basketball power, but a world class academic institution. Ray Meyer was loved not only by basketball fans, but an entire city. Deservedly so.



In other news....
TSHSMOM should love this. Perhaps the biggest upset in NCAA history took place last night. Not in the basketball tourney, which has seen a plethora of upsets itself, but in the hockey tourney. Holy Cross, a school that offers no athletic scholarships and was seeded last in the tourney, beat and eliminated #1 Minnesota last night, 4-3 in OT! Chalk up one for the true student athletes! The game was apparently so exciting that my deathly ill son called and woke me up to tell me about it. Even better, it took place on the home ice of arch rival North Dakota, in front of a record semifinal tourney crowd. Congrats to the Crusaders of Holy Cross!

Now cooking at THE CHURCH POTLUCK: Roast Chicken - Cajun Style

Comments:
I extend my sympathies on the passing of these great people. Of course as good 'Christians' we know they've gone on to a better place.
 
That was a really nice eulogy for your friend. Sounds like a great lady.
 
What a lovely way to honor your friends lives. You have a great white heart, dear Bear.
 
Beautiful tributes! Phyllis sounds a lot like me. I'll consider myself a success if only one of my "kids" remembers me like that!

Hockey shmockey! Do you realize that I get ALL my hockey news from Indiana and Alberta?
 
Sorry for your losses, GWB. Wonderful way to immortalize them...
 
GWB,

Sorry to hear your sorrows.

I, myself, lost a close friend in February.

She died suddenly. I'm devastated and am trying to deal with the sudden loss.

She was an anorexic. Her body just gave out. You can't starve youself for three years and survivie that.

I've had a very difficult two months. But I also realize I'm only one of 6 billion on this rock circling the sun who has to cope with pain, loss, and fear.

Wish I could put my inadequate arms around you to assure you that you will be okay.

Kisses, hugs and lots of good food.

Isabella
 
Thank you for the kind words you said about my grandmother, Phyllis. I'm Judys oldest son. Your tribute to her is greatly appreciated by us all.
 
Thank you all for your kind words, they are greatly appreciated.

And Jason, your grandmother was one of the best people I have ever known. I know you realize how lucky we all were to have her. Please say hello to your mom for me, and relay my deep saddness at your family's loss
 
I'm very sorry for your loss. Phyllis sounds like a wonderful woman who touched the lives of many people. *hugs*

I hope Fox College Sports shows that game!
 
What better way to rememmber and honor these folks than to let others know that what they did on a daily basis, mattered, and had a great impact. Sorry for the emptiness their passing is causing.
 
Phyllis sounds like an exceptional person and I'm sure she'll be missed.

I never did get to meet Ray while I was at DePaul. He was good people.
 
Wow, what a great tribute to Phyllis. You know, if everyone lived their lives like they had a gift to give, what a better world we'd have. I envy her ability to relate to teenagers. My own son is a teen and at times, I feel like I communicate very well with him. Other times..../sigh
 
Dag-nab-it, I hate when folks have to go! Thinking good thoughts your way Mr. Bear!
 
Very touching tributes, GWB! All the best.
 
What wonderful tributes you gave to such wonderful people. It's a blessing when our lives can touch so many as these have.
 
Sorry to hear about those lives passing and your loss Great White Bear. Stay steady.

Take care,
Candy
 
Thinking about Dick today.He was a family friend and my brother Mark McQueen's mentor when our father passed away. Dick taught him to run camera for WNDU when he was just in high school.
Some happy times on his ski boat in the late 60's
Happy Wednesday. So glad I found your blog today!
 
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