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Being a Mets fan, it's awfully hard to make friends with a Phillies fan. After all, that's the team that knocked the Mets out of the playoffs last year, and they're about to do it again.
However, there was one man in Levy County that I could call and joke with about baseball, and sports in general. As late as a week ago Tuesday, we were on the phone to each other talking about the pennant race, among other things in local sports. He was my favorite Phillies fan.
His name was Claude Lewis, and he was a writer and sports editor for our sister paper, the Chiefland Citizen.
Last Friday Claude was driving to the town of Jasper to cover the high school football game between Chiefland and Hamilton County. According to reports, he pulled off the side of the road to use his inhaler (turns out he had asthma, I didn't know). A passing motorist saw him and evidently called authorities. By the time help arrived, it was too late. Claude had died in his vehicle at the age of 54.
Word reached us at the Trinity Catholic-Williston game with just about one minute left in the contest. It was stunning news to get.
Just a week earlier he and I were both at the Chiefland-Williston game, and he came over to the Williston sideline and we walked the field together during the game.
Afterward, since the game was in Chiefland, he was back at his office within about two minutes after the game ended, while I was just leaving Chiefland in my car. He called me on my cell phone, of course to give me a baseball score that he had just looked up on the Internet. The discussion made it a fun ride home.
Last week the ride home was entirely different.
I don't even remember the trip, because I was lost in my own thoughts. When someone younger than you dies unexpectedly, it makes you ponder your own mortality. When that person is someone you know and respect, it makes it that much harder to comprehend.
His name should be known to you, the reader. In fact, if you go back a week, and look at the pictures of the Chiefland game, you'll see the line "photo by Claude Lewis" under the Williston pictures. He e-mailed them to me that Saturday morning so I'd have them for the next edition and, if I wanted to, for immediate inclusion on our Web site.
Claude had only been here for a few months more than a year, but was already well known and accepted in the community. In addition to sports, he did some coverage of the School Board and the Bronson Town Council.
Last fall, he and I competed in a little prediction race that ran in the Citizen. He would write a little story to go with it each week, and somewhere along the line came up with the nickname "battleship" for me. I never knew why, but this year over here we were kidding him and calling him "destroyer."
Well, now the destroyer has been put out of service. And Chiefland and Levy County have suffered a loss that will be felt for quite a while, and those of us who knew him will be feeling it as we are left with thoughts and memories.
Godspeed, my friend.
Jim Clark is the editor of the Williston Pioneer Sun News. He can be reached at
email@example.com or at 528-3343.