Wednesday, January 22, 2014

MY LOVE IS STRONGER THAN MY FEAR OF DEATH

The tale of 2 men who lovingly touched so many lives

The obituary page in Wednesday's Hartford Courant told a sobering story of two men taken from us who did everything in their power to make life better in the greater Bristol area and beyond.

Francis W. Mullins, 89, and Theodore C. Scheidel, Jr., 69, have passed on and many people are so much the better having known them and benefitted from their munificence.

Fran Mullins served the American Legion baseball program in Connecticut for 60 years, but even moreso in Bristol and the surrounding area covered in Zone 1.  Teddy Scheidel, perhaps the most dedicated public servant I've ever seen grace a local stage, was Burlington's first selectman for 26 years.

The highlights of their stories confirm that they knew each other.  Mullins was the personification of the Legion program and all for which it stood having served as state tournament director and Zone 1 chairman. Among the many legacies Scheidel left us was a Legion team that he initiated in 1999 and lovingly helped administer until 2012.

I am so glad that I nominated Mullins for the Connecticut Sports Writers' Alliance in 2006.  I vividly recall the conversation I had with him when I told him that he would be receiving a John Wentworth Good Sport Award, emblematic of giving back to the community through sports.  

Phone calls generally drip with the commonplace, sometimes sad, but rarely do you get to make them to tell a worthy person that he or she is being honored.  The awestruck nature of Fran's response is the full reason behind why I treasure my work with the Alliance.  Rarely do you have such an opportunity to spread some joy in a person's life while reaping financial byproducts that help put aspiring sports journalists through college.

I knew Scheidel much better.  

When I first moved to the region in 1990 and was looking for work, I hooked on with The Bristol Press as a freelance writer.  Naturally, my goal was to become a sports writer but I welcomed the challenge put forth by suburban editor Linda Smith when she asked if I would cover the Town of Burlington.

I called Teddy's office to gain some background, made an appointment at the new Town Hall that he was so instrumental in building.  When I walked out, I had a new friend.  He always wanted to please people, an element so tragically diminishing as people move faster and faster through the pages of their lives.  

When I told him of my dedication to baseball, he told me that he was a diehard Dodger fan, dating back tothe days of his boyhood when the team was in Brooklyn.  He related a story of how his father took him to games and the thrill of rooting for Gil Hodges and Duke Snider.  I'm sure an L.A. Dodger cap is in the keepsakes he leaves behind.

His willingness to share his knowledge with a struggling reporter trying to make an impact in town affairs was remarkable.  Years later, he still remembered my name.  I recall his coming to a New Britain Rock Cats game, an encounter which enabled us to rekindle our friendship.

He spoke of days at his beloved Lake Waramaug with his dear friend Denise.  When he spoke of her, he reminded me so much of the "Moonlight" Graham character in "Field of Dreams" played so exquisitely by Burt Lancaster and the familiar way he referred to his wife. 

"I've got to be getting home. Alicia will think I have a girlfriend," he said with a wink and that broad Lancaster smile.

In that respect, Teddy's story all comes together.  The Legion ball team.  Nassahegan Athletic Fields.  A love of baseball.  A sincere familiarity in the way he shaped his words that made everybody feel like they were among his closest friends.

The way a man dies isn't nearly as important as the way he lived.  The emphasis in the lives of Fran Mullins and Ted Scheidel are reflected in what they gave to others, and no man could strive for a greater legacy.



6 comments:

BC said...

Beautifully written Ken. Missing you writing about West Hartford Sports. There was a Hall vs Conard basketball game last Friday and you would never know it if you relied on the West Hartford News. In the sports section I find two articles from the New Haven register, and two "submitted" articles in today's paper. Sad times my friend!

BC said...

Beautifully written Ken. Missing you writing about West Hartford Sports. There was a Hall vs Conard basketball game last Friday and you would never know it if you relied on the West Hartford News. In the sports section I find two articles from the New Haven register, and two "submitted" articles in today's paper. Sad times my friend!

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