You know, I have had a lot of friends die young. That may not be unique. You probably have, also. It also is a product of living long. A sad product because you get to see friends and family leave and you are still around. Years ago, I counted up the people I knew who had died before their time and I got to the mid-20s. Same goes for artists. The good ones all seem to die young – Hank Williams, Buddy Holly, Janis Joplin, George Gershwin, Dinah Washington, Patsy Cline, Glenn Miller, Charlie Parker, to name just a few music artists that I really liked. Dick Scott, a Portville guy, is one of them that died young. I went to California with him, Amos Blakeslee and Dave Rider in 1960. Dick died in 1962 in a car accident. Amos died relatively young, as did Dave. Ray Jonak, who lived in Olean and went with his family to Ferndale, WA in 1954 with a whole bunch of us from Olean, Portville and Allegany, was another. He got his college degree from Western Washington College of Education (now a university) and was teaching at a junior high in Bellingham, WA when he died in 1971. He was newly married to a sweet girl and his death was very tragic. I don’t have a clue while the good ones leave early and guys like me are still around. I was just listening to some bio on John Coltrane who died at 40, and maybe that is what started this writing. Coltrane, a great jazz musician, died of liver cancer. I often think of Portville’s John Morgan, who died in 1951, and Jerry Stickles, who was in the Portville class of 1958 and died during construction of the Kinzua Dam a year later. I heard he got electrocuted. What is weird is that I tried to mentor Jerry a little bit while I was still in school at Portville Central. I thought Jerry had some good athletic ability and that he just needed to be plodded a bit. One physical education class, teacher (and coach) Charles Miller had us running around the face of Bear’s Cave behind the school. I knew I would not be in contention (running was not my sport), but I thought Jerry could. So before we raced I told Jerry, “Stick right with me. I will go as fast as I can but at some point I’m going to run out of gas. When I falter, I want you to take off running as fast as you can.” In other words, I was going to be the “Rabbit” in this competition. He followed my directions perfectly and as we got to the end of the top of the hill before we dropped down I was about done. I shouted at Jerry to take off. I finished in the last one-third of the class and Jerry finished fourth. Sometime during the summer of 1959, I had a beer with Jerry at the Old Rose Inn. He was as charming and easy to be with as ever. Sometime later that year is when he died. One more story about Jerry. I was the quarterback on a Portville midget football team. I could throw the football a country mile, even then. Jerry was playing a tight end/receiver and I knew he had some speed, so I would tell him to go straight down the field running as fast as you can and I will throw the ball to you. He never caught a ball. I was so eager to throw the ball I always overthrew him, or anybody else. In fact, I never completed a pass. But, yeah, Jerry was a great guy. I’ve had nieces die young. Minerva Mosher Dean’s first daughter, Amy, died in 1958 of a brain tumor. She was just five. Char, Ronnie and Barb’s daughter, died at 25 of complications from several things. Even as she was dying in a Rochester Hospital, she was worried about others, not herself. Of course, my mother died young. She was 48 when she died in 1953. It was a tragic event that changed the course of my life. I’ve turned out okay, but I have had a few bumps along the way, especially early on. I managed to get college degrees, live for awhile in California, Oklahoma, Alaska and Seattle before finally landing the position I was meant to do – sportswriting. It’s been a tough journey, one I’m still on. Many of my friends are now gone, some as I said, way too early. One more amazing story and then I will quit. I had come back to our home in Bremerton, WA after a vacation in Portville and wrote about my experiences. In the story, I mentioned going over the East and West Notches from Richburg, where my brother Ray has lived since the mid 1960s. Steve, my next door neighbor, was out taking his garbage out one day after my story appeared in the local daily newspaper and he said I know where the East and West Notches are. I said, really?

Turns out he graduated from Olean High School in 1928 and was in a band that played music all over Cattaraugus County. It’s weird that a neighbor here in Bremerton would have gone to Olean High School, but the weirdest thing about his story is that he graduated from Olean with a girl who was the mother of one of my best friends, Peter Dan Slayer. Sad to say, Peter disappeared in 1968 and 20 years later I found him working in the cafeteria at James Madison University in Virginia. Peter had a degree in history from Western Washington State College of Education, but apparently never used it. He was another one who died at a relatively young age, Dec. 23, 2008 in Delaware. The odd thing is that when he disappeared he left behind a wife and young son. After I found him in 1988, I wrote about him for the paper and years after the story appeared, I discovered his wife had grew up in Bremerton. Now that is really weird. But it gets weirder. Another neighbor, Tim, had a brother that was a professor at St. Bonaventure. And Tim’s mother lived in Olean. One year, Tim was visiting his brother at St. Bona and as they talked in the hallway outside the brother’s classroom, the janitor came by and was introduced. When Tim mentioned he was from Bremerton, the janitor said he knew a columnist that wrote for the paper there. Tim added that he was the financial officer for the paper and wanted to know who the columnist he knew was. The janitor said, “Terry Mosher.” Tim said, I know him, and he’s my neighbor. Who was the janitor? Bob Green. Yes, the same Bob Green that graduated in 1952 from Portville and was a neighbor of mine when I lived in Portville. Small, world, right? That’s enough. I hope everybody is well. We have a lot of smoke here from wildfires in Eastern Washington that have blown in the past several days. Before that, we had smoke from wildfires in Canada and from Oregon and California. From our house you can see parts of Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains. Not today. I can see the water, but smoke obscures the Mountains. Take care. You are loved.