"Well I woke up and checked the obituaries and I didn't see my name, so I'm doing OK!"
It's a funny way to look at life, I laugh every time somonee says it. I am always thankful they didn't find their name. When I was a kid I didn't realize how much that little joke was a two sided snark. Yes they were happy they didn't see their name, but they check the obits to see who they do know printed there.
I've reached that age.
COVID certainly hasn't helped. But people also die of other things besides COVID.
I've always had older friends. I grew up playing a sport where traditionally it is older folks who play. If you're young you really stand out. So I learned a long time ago how to say goodbye to friends
But it doesn't get easier.
When I started playing lawn bowls, everyone was old to me. I was only 12 when my dad took me into top level competitions including the National Open.
It was at a National Open where I met the guy on the right side of the picture above, and he became a life long friend.
George Schick was a young lawn bowler himself at the time - he was in his twenties. We played a triples game against each other where he was my counterpart playing lead. I was very respectful and I learned that I could pick up my opponents bowl and give it to them. Most of the old folks really appreciated it.
George did not. I handed him his bowl and called him Sir. Well this was the only time that this sweetheart of a man ever cursed out anyone I think. He laughed and said "don't call me sir ever again and I can pick up my own bowl!"
At twelve someone in their twenties was someone I'd call Mr. or sir, but George insisted I not call him anything else but George. He and his team beat us and George and I became great friends.
Now when I say he was a sweetheart of a man, I do not say this lightly. His handshake was like butter, his demeanor on the green was elegant, his delivery smooth and his voice was soft. This man was a model of how one should act on a bowling green and for that matter, in life.
For years we would compete and he would openly admit, I had his number. Other than that first game in the National Open, I'm not sure he ever beat me again. But George never wavered in his kindness or support for me. And I admired everything about him. He could also sing, trained opera sing. The Eastern Division hands down had the best national anthem in the whole country when George was around.
When this photo was taken, it was 1991. The only reason I remember the date is because that was the first year I won the right to represent my division in U.S. Championships. We played four round robins with the winners facing each other. It was actually a long grueling three days of playing in the hot Delaware sun. I will tell you the whole story because it is important to this story.
The four pictured each won the right to move to the final round robin on day three. When this photo was taken it was assumed that Skip Arculli (second from the right) would likely win. He was a multiple national champion and even won a world championship. George and I were thinking we'd likely play for second and local club bowler Dick Schiefelbein would likely come in last.
I had to play George first game and I really was on. I beat him soundly. Dick unexpectedly beat Skippy. I then had to play Skippy, who was obviously deflated and I managed to win. George bounced back and beat Dick. Then George beat Skippy which was a huge thrill for him as I played a tough game against Dick. It was a long game and George and Skippy finished their game. If I lost to Dick, there would be a three way tie and there would be play offs.
So George had a vested interest in Dick beating me.
Now this is where George's character really shows. I ended up winning. My family was there and it was really a big accomplishment for my family that I won this tournament. I was the first to win this honor.
I will never forget what happened next.
George, who was standing at the end watching started to walk up to me to shake my hand to congratulate me even though my winning meant we wouldn't have a playoff and his chance to win was gone, but instead of shaking my hand he said to me "no shake your dad's hand first."
Now my dad wouldn't have cared, but what a gesture. And George may have actually felt prouder than my dad at that moment. He was that kind of human.
A few years later I was given a gift.
George and I played with our friend Bob Urquhart in the Eastern Division triples. George may very well have held the record for Eastern Division Triples second place finishes up to that point.
He just couldn't quite get over the top.
I remember we joked about it as we entered and then won all of our games only to face the toughest team in theist in the finals .
Yep, we lost.
We didn't let that phase us so we teamed up again the next year and we ended up in the finals again.
For some reason fate did not want this wonderful man win this tournament.
We lost again to another tough team
I take blame, but so did George.I remember him playing brilliantly and we simply faced better opponents. I always wished we got one more shot at it. George had some physical problems that prevented him from playing the las 15 or 20 years.
I cannot tell you exactly when I saw him last other than it was when he and his wife, Marlene, showed up to a tournament in NJ years ago to watch with their beautiful kids.
He passed away last night.I really wish we played one more time and won that damn tournament together.
RIP my dear sweet friend who I truly wish I could give a hug right now and call sir!
This is a loss for the world who needs good people more than ever.
And, I'm tired of losing friends.