For me the week between Christmas and New Year’s is both a time to look ahead to what the next year may hold and also a time to reflect back.
As for the necrologies we’ll all see published in newspapers during these final days of the year, I think, especially for those of us who are of the age where every year we seem to lose someone who really matters to us, we tend to form our own necrology.
For me and for many others privileged enough to know him well, my 2016 necrology sadly includes one of my best baseball buds, the Detroit Tiger-loving yin to my New York Yankee yang, Dave May, who sadly passed last September. But, to so many, even aside from the love and admiration felt by his wife, Katy, and sons Jody and Tyson, of course, Dave was so very much more than just a baseball guy.
Simply put, in my opinion, if you look at all the ways in which he involved himself to help and mentor young people, he was truly one of Limaland’s staunchest advocates of high school student-athletes ever.
I realized this fact about three years ago after I spent enough time with him to broaden my knowledge of the roles he filled since his arrival at Elida in 1975. Many of my conversations with him were at the Westgate Lanes restaurant on Saturday mornings.
What I wanted to do was write a two-part series on Dave for “Our Generation’s Magazine,” to provide readers with a glimpse into his many accomplishments and contributions. Since I’d already written about so many others frequently at those breakfasts, either for the newspaper or the magazine, from local broadcasters Mike Mullen and Mike Schepp to basketball and football referee Denny Morris to Elida tennis coach Denny Schwinnen, I felt certain I’d have no trouble getting Dave to cooperate.
When he’d heard enough of what I had in mind, though, he immediately began shaking his head side to side, saying he wasn’t interested. Persistent as I was, I thought he’d come around, but each time I asked him, actually, at one point pleaded with him, the answer was the same. I even went so far to email him the interview questions I would ask to allow him a chance to reflect on some of his own history before we would talk, but it was no use.
Dave May simply didn’t want anyone ever thinking that what he did — both in his 35 years of Elida service and even after his 2010 retirement or his time spent as an umpire, a basketball and football official or the time he spent as a commissioner of two leagues, the Western Buckeye League and the Northwest Central Conference — merited any more attention than anything else someone may have done.
One time, after I’d finally decided to give up and rack my brain for other possible topics, I arrived at Westgate for some fellowship and coffee. He looked up at me as I entered and said, “Oh oh, here comes my nemesis,” before I put my hand up and jokingly said, “No, no, Dave, I’ve found someone to write about who’s a lot better than you!”
Over time, besides using a classroom as his teaching venue, he continued helping young people in his roles as coach, athletic director and athletic ticket manager. Add a couple of league commissionerships and years of umpiring and officiating, and it’s as complete a résumé as anyone of whom I can think when it comes to helping our young people in their athletic ambitions.
At Dave’s showing, I spoke to a long-time friend of Dave’s, Dave Mayer, who told me an anecdote that, I think, sums up Dave May best when it comes to his eschewing self-aggrandizement.
Mayer recalled a home cross-country meet some years ago, where Bulldog runners were engaging in that noble and solitary sport, running across fields and through the woods, generally before only blood relatives and a stray boyfriend or girlfriend. But, there was also someone who often could be seen at those meets, someone who fit neither of those categories, just an athletic director who felt he had to show as much support for the so-called non-revenue sports participants as he did those Bulldog athletes who competed on weekend nights under far brighter lights.
At the finish line, Mayer recalled, there was Dave, offering encouragement to every runner who crossed.
And, that was Dave May, someone who only flew under the radar when it came to his own considerable accomplishments, not when it came time to acknowledge the last runner emerging from a thicket of trees.
John Grindrod is a regular columnist for The Lima News and Our Generation’s Magazine, a freelance writer and editor and the author of two books. Reach him at [email protected]