Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Farewell to a friend

I don't know much, as faithful readers of the Blob (Hi, sis!) are well aware. But what I do know is this: No one ever got anywhere in this world without help.

You can be as self-made a man or a woman as ever breathed air, but at some point in your life someone either extended you a hand or drew you a road map to show you the way. Anyone who claims otherwise -- and hardly any truly successful person does -- is either a restaurant-quality liar or has been stricken with a convenient and utterly self-serving bout of amnesia.

I'm happy to say I'm neither of those. Which is why my world got a little grayer today when the news came down that Ron Lemasters had died down in Muncie.
Ron was the assistant sports editor at the Muncie Star 40 years ago when a raggedy college kid with disco hair walked into the newsroom to string high school basketball games. I was as green as a blade of April grass, and so what I remember most vividly is sitting in the stands with my scorebook on my knees because I was too dumb to realize that, as a member of the media (so to speak), I was entitled to find a place at the scorer's table.

That and the sheer terror of deadline sticks with me, after four decades. If I'm lucky, none of what I wrote then survives. But I must have impressed someone, because for the next 40 years, Ron Lemasters was one of my greatest champions, a mentor and a friend and one of those people who, yes, shows you the way.

Of course, he was much more than that.

His name might not be familiar to civilians in these parts, but in the cloistered world of sportswriting in Indiana, almost everyone recognizes it. He covered his first Indianapolis 500 in 1961, and he was still hanging around the place last May, having moved some years ago from the Star to the Speedway's own news service. He also covered more than 30 high school basketball state championship games and a slew of other stuff, too, and always with a smile you couldn't erase with a gross of C-4.

The man was simply one of the most relentlessly joyous people I've ever known, a walking sunbeam who clearly loved what he did and made you love it, too. Even on those days when it rained buckets or the wireless was flighty or assorted other job-related headaches descended like Biblical plagues, five minutes hanging with Ron could turn everything around.

And now he's gone, passing at 76 of complications from a stroke he suffered last month. And it's a testament to the happy swath he cut through life that it still seems unimaginable to me. It's impossible, I'm thinking, that I'll walk into the Speedway in May and Ron won't be there, a grin on his face and a chuckle dancing around its edges.

Some people die and your reaction is, "Wow, that's sad." But when a Ron Lemasters goes?

Then it's this: "Come on. Ron Lemasters? No way."

Epitaph for a life well-lived.


1 comment:

  1. This is beautiful, Ben. "Walking sunbeam" is a perfect description for Ron. In the 30+ years I knew him, I can't recall him ever being angry or in a bad mood.