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by
P. David Hornik

Bio

February 24, 2013 - 10:00 am

Bill came to our school from a western-New York school in his junior year—1969-1970. I was in the class below his. I became aware of him as someone very cool. He made the varsity basketball team and soon won glory as a starting guard. He had strawberry-blond hair, an athletic build that he carried very nonchalantly, a winning grin.

He also — right away — found his social niche among the “bad” boys. I have no idea how it is now, but in those days a good many of the athletes in our school and the surrounding ones were “bad.” They drank and smoked a lot, roamed the streets at night in small, malicious groups, sometimes engaged in vandalism and theft. In my eyes Bill’s easy meshing with that crowd made him all the more cool.

As a tenth grader, a member of the JV basketball team who spent more time on the bench than on the court, I didn’t see myself as a likely candidate to be friends with someone like Bill. It happened through another friend of mine, Scott (not his real name), who was a varsity basketball teammate of Bill’s though not quite as good a player. I knew Scott from childhood because our fathers were good friends.

So by, I believe, the spring of that year — the spring of 1970 — I found myself roaming in those groups with Scott, Bill, and others. Swilling beer, engaging in gruff, lurid talk about girls, exuding menace; me being given an equal status with older guys who were better athletes. I was thrilled.

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All Comments   (7)
All Comments   (7)
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Many thanks, Lee Johnson, appreciated.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Thanks for your sharing your story. I think it's a fitting remembrance of a friend. Amazing how we are close to people and then it wanders away. In the past several years, it's usually Facebook. In some ways, the days when you lose touch with people are gone, unless they're gone.

In 2007, I did a similar Google search, an ex-girlfriend. In that case, she had married into a very wealthy and powerful family. She had committed suicide during a painful, public divorce. The family had played hardball with her and had found ways to hold her up to public ridicule while seeming eminently reasonable.

After I learned this sad news, I wrote her family and they welcomed the condolences. I visited her grave site. I still remember her and pray for her. That's all we can do.

I don't know if you plan on writing a letter to Bill's family ... but it might be welcomed. If it were me, I'd send a short letter to the widow.

In any case, thanks for this story. It was moving.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
According to me people who commit suicide are really very stupid. They do this because they can't face the problem that occur in our life.

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1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
According to me people who commit suicide are really very stupid. They do this because they can't face the problem that occur in our life.

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1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Thanks, SunsetDistrict and thanks, Burkean. Re. Burkean, there are indeed striking parallels between the story you tell and the one I told. "But with Bill or Jimmy or Carol, and others like them, the facade of success is missing and what we see is some aspect of their true soul, and while it is often painful, we know it is real and must be acknowledged"--an insight that really resonates.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Thanks for sharing. We all know someone like Bill who live a hard life and too often die young. For me, it was my sister and her husband, Jimmy. Jimmy was exactly like the Jerry Reed character, Cledus Snow, in the movie Smokey and the Bandit; looked like him, talked like him, acted like him. The one exceptional trait my sister and Jimmy had was they truly loved each other and were determined to face life together. Everyone who met them knew without a doubt that they were soul mates. You couldn't help but like Jimmy and he'd go out of his way to help others, despite his own troubles. Jimmy owned a combine and went state to state looking for work, always just a step ahead of the loan sharks he had borrowed money from to pay his mortgage on the combine, always just a step ahead of the law, always short of money, always hungry, dressed in worn dirt farmer clothes, always getting into drunken fights as did my sister too. My sister, Carol, would work at whatever jobs she could get in whatever town they found themselves in. Usually the jobs were minimum wage or below minimum wage doing the most awful things like shoveling manure and the like. Hard backbreaking work. Jimmy would work the same jobs when he couldn't get a combine job. Jimmy and my sister would pass through town and see us at times every year or two. Each time their bodies showed the wear and aging from a very hard life but they never complained, never would accept charity although we tried to help them. Like your Bill, they had some good times but very few. In the end both my sister and Jimmy died in their forties, within days of each other. Although their lives were not testimonials to success or never breaking the law, in truth, they never hurt anyone, and left a trail of friends from all walks of life whom they touched. The funerals were attended by hundreds of men and women just like them who came from dozens of states to say goodbye. How they knew to come is still a mystery. I'm not sure what it is that makes us feel compelled to acknowledge the Bills of the world, but we must. I suspect that for the successful middle class person, who is recognized by the community, who never fails, never runs afoul of the law, we really never see their true soul. But with Bill or Jimmy or Carol, and others like them, the facade of success is missing and what we see is some aspect of their true soul, and while it is often painful, we know it is real and must be acknowledged.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Great story from the heart.

The forward and best player on my basketball team committed suicide. He just could not deal with the real world.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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