On one of his favorite days of the year, St. Patrick’s Day, and at one of his favorite times of year, college basketball’s March Madness, the man known to all as “Coach” quietly passed away.
His name was Ray Meyer, the legendary basketball coach at DePaul University, and the media has given his life the attention it deserved extending it beyond his abilities to coach. The words written about Coach have been genuine and heartfelt, because that is how he was.
I first met Coach when our daughter, Tina, was a student at DePaul University playing softball and working in the basketball office for Joey Meyer, Coach’s son.
The friendship between the Kosey and Meyer families grew so it was only natural when Tina married Eric Duve, members of the Meyer family were in attendance. Their presence at the reception prompted the hall manager to come up and ask us, “Did you know Ray Meyer was here?”
He certainly wasn’t a wedding crasher. He was our friend. Our son Michael’s marriage to Laure found Coach sitting with Husband Joe and I during the reception.
This time it was Coach who had the question, “How did I rate to get to sit at such a good table?”
As with many friendship people don’t see each other as often as we would like or should but when Coach and I did see each other, it was time treasured. Our form of communication came in the form of greeting cards I sent and letters he sent always signed, “Affectionately, Ray Meyer.”
The art form of handwriting letters was kept alive by Coach. His letters talked mainly about his family, the numerous grandchildren and basketball. They were his life. He would always ask how my family was, and it was with genuine concern.
As health problems began to occur, his letters would tell of some of the problems. He didn’t dwell on the subject, but you could tell it was an annoyance and started to prohibit him from doing many of the things he enjoyed. Phone calls were also a connection between us.
He was a great storyteller and could captivate an audience of any age. Once I had arranged for him to speak at a mother-son breakfast at Lyons Township High School. I attended and joined in the laughter of the group as Coach told of the time he left his wife, Marge, at the arena following a game the team lost. He added it was the last time that happened. His talk was motivational; it was uplifting.
We attended his wake at St. Vincent DePaul Church in Lincoln Park on the campus where he spent so many years. The women’s basketball team filed in to pay their respects before heading out for the second round of their NCAA tournament.
Most of them may never have met the man, but they knew who he was and realized it was a loss for everyone. As the lines to enter the church became longer and the wind whipped through, you could hear people talking softly and relating their own stories of Coach. All who met him had a story.
He came to my Mother’s wake, he advised us on some plantings around our house and liked Husband Joe’s barbecue sauce, even complaining to his daughter-in-law, Barbara, once when he was out of the sauce.
Coach had tickets to the Final Four and had hoped to attend, I’m sure he would have had good seats, but somehow I think he will have the best seats now as he looks down on the court, joined by Marge, who preceded him in death.
Many watching the final game will be reminded of the man who so loved the game of basketball and know he must be wearing a very big grin.