Red received the sad news that one of his first friends had passed away this weekend. Red and John had been friends since first grade and although they drifted apart in later years – the miracle of the internet had brought them back together several times in recent years. John was Red’s first real school friend – a guy who grew up just far enough away to not be a neighbor friend. John was a smart witty boy who always had a smile on his face. He was impossible to not like. Red isn’t sure how we became friends – it was just one of those lucky accidents.
John was the first baseball fanatic that Red ever met. As he once said, “he would have given up his first born to play second base in the major leagues.” Red is not entirely sure he was joking about that one. In sixth grade, when John finally got called up to the “Major League” at Northwest Little League – it seemed everyone was very happy and knew that he had been overlooked for others with less talent and maybe more aggressive parents. In today’s much more organized environment he would have stuck with baseball and probably played through high school. He had some real talent. Red remembers how that talent translated into gym class. When we would play dodge ball (or bombardment as we called it), John’s technique was to stand in the middle and catch everything that was thrown at him and get the other guy out. He rarely missed one.
John was also Red’s first golfing buddy. Neither John nor Red were particularly good at the game but we always had a lot of fun on the course. And during those rounds, Red learned that John had a lot more insight into the adult world than Red. It seems John’s Dad clued him into some of the guy stuff that Red’s Dad never talked about.
One last memory. When Red and John were in sixth grade, we decided to host the year end talent show. We were inspired by the Smothers Brothers and took our act on to the Cafetorium stage in front of the whole school. As Red recalls it involved Red playing an old man for one part and John doing his Arnold Palmer impression. John even had a little toy music box type guitar and brought the house down when in the middle of the program he had everyone rise for the National Anthem and then cranked the little music box guitar instead. Oh for a videotape of that performance.
Goodbye John, Red will miss you. You were the epitome of a nice guy.