Stories indexed with the term ‘tributes’

Column: Remembering Jim Mandich

John U. Bacon

John U. Bacon

On Tuesday, the Michigan football family lost another beloved son, Jim Mandich, who died of cancer at age 62.

Regular readers of this space know I’ve had to write a few elegies already this year, and I’m not sure if we can bear another one right now.

I’m not sure Mandich would want any more, either, beyond his funeral. As he told Angelique Chengelis of The Detroit News last fall, after he was diagnosed with cancer, “I said to myself, ‘No whining, no complaining, no bitching. You’ve lived a damned good life. You’ve got a lot to be thankful for.’”

And he did, including a great NFL career and three grown sons – good guys, good friends. But I’m sure he’d like to be remembered – don’t we all? – and I thought you might enjoy a story or two about an unusually talented and charismatic man. [Full Story]

Column: A Life Lived Fully

John U. Bacon

John U. Bacon

If you’re not a Michigan football fan, you probably haven’t heard of Vada Murray, but you might have seen his picture. It’s one of those iconic images of Michigan football, along with Tom Harmon standing in his mud-soaked, torn-apart jersey, and Desmond Howard diving to catch a touchdown pass against Notre Dame.

But the photo I’m talking about shows Vada Murray and Tripp Welborne soaring skyward to block a field goal. They were a kicker’s nightmare. But even when they got a hand on the ball, it simply denied their opponent three points. That’s not the kind of thing that wins you a Heisman Trophy or an NFL contract. They don’t even keep records of those things.

But more than two decades later, something about that photo still resonates. Maybe it’s because it captures their effort, their intensity, their passion – all of it spent just to give their teammates a slightly better chance for success. There is something noble in that. And we recognize it – which is why they’ve been selling that photo at the frame store on Ann Arbor’s Main Street for years, right along side the legendary poses of Harmon and Howard. [Full Story]

Column: A Man of Character

John U. Bacon

John U. Bacon

Whenever I talk to a high school coach who quit, they always say the kids were great, but the parents drove them crazy. Doesn’t matter what sport.

But when I coached the Ann Arbor Huron High School hockey team, I was lucky. Yes, getting to know the players was the best part, and now, seven years after I stepped down, I’m going to their weddings. What I didn’t expect, though, was becoming lifelong friends with their parents, too.

The team we took over hadn’t won many games, but after we had a decent first season, three hot shots showed up at our door. They had all been coached by Fred Fragner, who once played for the Junior Red Wings.

Whenever these boys blew a great scoring chance, or received a bad call or got whacked with a stick, Fred always told them, with a grin, “Three words: Be a man.” By the time they came to Huron, all three were just that. [Full Story]

Column: Losing a Friend, and Community

John U. Bacon

John U. Bacon

It was a beautiful summer morning. I walked from my home in Ann Arbor, down State Street, to St. Thomas the Apostle Church. A crowd had already gathered outside, waiting to pay respects to our old friend, Mr. Brown.

No one told us to call him that. We just did.

In 1937, Mr. Brown’s father and grandfather opened a store called College Shoe Repair. Mr. Brown took over the business in 1951, the same year he married Dorothy – or Mrs. Brown, to us. They worked together every day. They had seven kids, and all of them worked at the store at some point.

When the shoe repair business slowed down in the ’70s, Mr. Brown started selling hockey equipment and sharpening skates. That’s how most of us got to know him. [Full Story]

Column: For the Love of the Game

John U. Bacon

John U. Bacon

Old Man Winter is back with a vengeance. That’s okay. I like the snow – and I love the hockey.

You can play pond hockey, drop-in hockey or beer league hockey, but for me, the best hockey is the pick-up game at Michigan’s Yost Arena on Tuesday nights.

The game features some of the best players in the area, most of them former Michigan players, many of whom played pro hockey. But a few wannabes, like me, have gotten regular spots. It’s by invitation only, and I only got invited because I knew the guy who started it. Jeff Bourne – known as “Tiny,” thanks to his 5-6 frame – cared as much about attitude as ability. As he said: If you don’t pass, you’re an ass. [Full Story]

Column: A True Hall of Famer

John U. Bacon

John U. Bacon

If you grew up in Michigan in the ’70s, as I did, Bob Seger sang the soundtrack to your summers, and Ernie Harwell provided the voiceover.

When I think about our family trips up north, they’re always accompanied by Harwell’s comfortable cadences filling the car. He didn’t simply broadcast baseball games. He turned them into stories. In Harwell’s world, a batter didn’t merely strike out. He was “called out for excessive window shopping,” or “caught standing there like the house by the side of the road.”

Unlike today’s announcers, who prattle on with mindless patter and pointless stats, Harwell treated his listeners to healthy doses of “companionable silences,” something Zen masters refer to as the delicious “space between the notes.” Harwell said the quiet allowed the listeners to enjoy the sounds of the ballpark itself, which he felt was richer than his own voice. [Full Story]

Column: A Tribute to Ken King of Frog Holler

The King family set up a memorial to Ken King at their Frog Holler stand in the Ann Arbor Farmers Market on Saturday.

The King family set up a memorial to Ken King at their Frog Holler Farm stand in the Ann Arbor Farmers Market on Saturday.

“I’ve always had this idea, sort of a picture in my mind, of a lot of people working physically together, towards a common goal. Not only like working together and being simple, like peasants, having simple needs and not complicated by so many interpersonal things going on. Just people working side by side and as they’re working it becomes an art – they’re singing, see. They’re singing and it’s a rhythm…We’re doing the farming part and kind of doing the music thing and maybe somehow those will work more together and really living life more artistically and having our daily activities more appealing and beautiful and more nourishing than now.” – Ken King, 1989

Twenty years ago Ken King shared this simple idea about community and life. He achieved that vision, and more. Through his practical practice of his ideals, hard work, loving family, and extensive community, he lived and thrived on Frog Holler Farm in Brooklyn Michigan. Locally, Ken is perhaps best known from the Ann Arbor Farmers Market, where the Frog Holler produce has been a staple. 

Ken died Thursday, May 7. His was a life well-lived. [Full Story]