Over the years, I have read -- and written -- numerous tributes about individuals of prominence in the area sporting world after they have passed away. They are always touching stories that center around the good deeds of the person or how the individual was influential in the lives of many others.
They are stories that can -- and should -- continue to be written when the sad occasion arises, but there is always one thing that has troubled me. I wish the articles didn't have to be written after the fact. I wish the person that is being praised could actually see and hear what others are saying and how they have impacted lives.
This thought came to mind recently as my wife and I visited with Bob Kay in an Urbana hospital. He is a person of integrity that I first met as a fledgling reporter when he was coaching baseball at Danville High School. That was an immediate draw. He was coaching baseball.
It's hard to say how many times our paths crossed during his lengthy tenure as a coach for various sports at his alma mater, and later as an administrator, but they were always opportunities awaited with pleasure. Whether he was busy, perhaps distracted by a discipline problem or a game that didn't go according to plan, Bob was always gracious and genuinely interested in speaking with you. Rather than rush through an interview, he would take whatever time was needed.
As the years passed, I got to know him on a different level, as a colleague of sorts, though what he did for WDAN providing commentary on prep games or the junior college national tournament is not something I could imagine doing with his insight and behind-the-scenes knowledge. His analysis was always on target and often made me wonder, "why didn't I think of that?'
Then there were the movies. Funny movies. Sad movies. Thought-provoking movies. Any movie. We'd not only discuss the ones we thought each other would like, but how ironic would it be that my wife and I would be leaving a show -- or entering one -- and there would be Bob exiting or preparing to see one at the same theater? It was a twist of fate you'd think had been pre-arranged.
My life is better for having known Bob and his gentle nature and I look forward to the times we'll be together again. I just didn't want to wait and say it after it was too late.