Musing along with a very heavy heart.
Many English words are used at the varying discretions of speakers. This is especially true in the world of sports ¬– in which obviously I am very heavily involved – by sports writers and sports broadcasters.
“Icon” is one of those words. Therefore, I decided to look “icon” up in the Webster dictionary. It is defined as “A person who is very successful and admired and a widely known symbol.”
In previous writings of the “Musings”, I have stated that a “musing” is both a reflection of the past and a looking forward to the future.
This week, I am dedicating my “Musings” to a person I believe is a true icon in the city of Leavenworth, especially in the local sports arena.
Upon returning from my vacation, I was deeply saddened by the news of the death of an individual I feel blessed to call a friend.
William “Bill” Alford passed away this past Tuesday evening.
In my mind, Bill was the picture in the Webster dictionary beside the definition of icon!
If there was a sporting event happening in this community, Bill was in attendance. When I would ask him what he was doing at the event, his response was always, “I just wanted to watch some ball.”
Besides KU sports and the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame, anything Leavenworth sports related was Bill's lifelong passion.
He attended games involving pre-schoolers or adults. He didn't care as long as it was sports.
He even went to soccer games if you can believe that!
And talk sports history – Bill was a walking sports history book. Our discussions would go all the way back to the players on the 1950s Leavenworth Braves baseball teams that played at the old VA baseball field.
He would always talk about the Leavenworth players that went on from the Braves to play professional baseball.
He enjoyed talking of the rivalries with Billy Goat Hill, Bain City and the athletes that came out of “those areas” of Leavenworth!
He would talk about the heydays of the 1960 KU football teams.
Now that I think about it, I never remember him ever talking anything K-State with me!
Pick a decade from the 1950s to the 2010s, and Bill could discuss any athlete out of any decade with you.
I will miss those stories and not many of us will know those stories. I always will because Bill shared them with me!
His Leavenworth sports history stories stretch over seven decades of local knowledge.
He would speak of Murray Dickson, Walt “Wolf” Montgomery, the Seymour brothers and the McQuillan brothers of the 50s.
Page 2 of 3 - He would talk of the “Fabulous Five” at Leavenworth High School from the 60s – the McGlinn brothers, Herman Rathman, Ray Simpson and Kenny Kersten.
From the 70s, he would talk of Wayne Simien Sr., and Tom Krattli and his exploits at, sure enough, KU.
He could speak for hours! Of course, the fun part was, as women sports evolved in the 70s and he got to talking about the Daughtery sisters, Jackie Baldwin Green, Sharon Scanlon, Amy Hastings and on and on!
He would share stories of his travels to watch games at Notre Dame, He cherished those trips because he got to share them with his son!
He wore me out last winter as he never got tired of pulling the Leavenworth Times picture of his daughter out of his wallet after she earned her doctoral degree from KU.
Bill was a very special friend of the Leavenworth Parks and Recreation Department!
He devoted countless hours of dedicated service to our department throughout his entire life.
When I was told we could hire temporary help in our sports area, Bill was one of my first calls.
His first response was, “You don't need to pay me, I will be there anyway probably.”
I am so fortunate to have had Bill by my side as I attempted to launch a new career in the position I currently hold.
God truly blessed me with Bill by my side as I stumbled and bumbled my way though some moments.
I always knew Bill was only a phone call away if I needed him!
Speaking of history, last Winter, he was sitting at a first/second grade basketball game as the supervisor at Nettie Hartnett one Saturday morning.
He leaned over and said, “I use to watch your dad play in this gym. Now, I am watching his granddaughter (Carah Medill Berry) referee and his great-granddaughter (Lizzy Medill) play in the same gym.
“I have watched four generations of your family play sports and three generations of your family officiate.”
Of course his avocation was officiating. It put him right in the middle of all of the action! It could not get any better than that!
In fact, he refereed volleyball for us this past season in our women's volleyball league!
In our visits, he would bring up names of the old-time officials that I grew up hearing about my entire life: Kenneth Ken “KK” Kenny, Al “Nurse” Bodde, Steve Deere, Walt “Beck” Beckerjeck, Tom “Sarge” Pike, Walden Dye, Bill “Reverend” Young, Gene Fleek, Earl “Cat” Hathorn, “Big” Ben Schmidt, John “Little General” Nilsen, my goodness, the list goes on and on and on!
As a child, I wondered how come so many of them had nicknames. I felt bad for those who didn't have a nickname.
Page 3 of 3 - One time, I jokingly made that comment to Bill. His response was, “Tabor, we all had nicknames, they just couldn't be used around you when you were so young!”
Officiating also put him on the field with folks that went on to play major college ball and some even professional ball to include Junior and John Riggins (NFL Hall-of-Fame running back), who went to, you guessed it, KU.
Of course, I always had to mention Lonnie Kruger – right on K-State. So on and so forth.
I could go on forever with “Bill” stories! Leave me to say – Leavenworth has lost a true Leavenworth sports Icon!
I will miss those cherished moments I was so fortunate to have shared with him forever!
The gyms and fields will not seem the same without Bill Alford sitting there!
Out of respect for Bill – I started this “Musings” as a dedication to William “Bill” Alford. Therefore, we will return to our regular format of the “Musings” next week. This week is Bill's week. I will see ya'll in next week's “Musings”!
-Tabor Medill is the recreation supervisor for the Leavenworth Parks and Recreation Department.