After this weekend's debacle that saw
football teams like Lincoln, ISU, Illinois and the Bears all go down
in a heap; the Cardinals lose two in Houston; and now it's raining
cats and dogs; good news would be a welcomed sight! With all the bad
news, sometimes it's really hard to follow sports. And sometimes
they take on much less significance than they ordinarily would.
This week was a prime example. Our
community took a much deeper loss with the departure from this life
of Steve Barmes and Jim Newsome.
Many of you knew Jim Newsome as the
balloon man or at least as the announcer who covered balloon
launches over the last several years. Others knew him as a DJ and
some through community theater. Many knew him as a man who could go
toe-to-toe with anyone on any argument. I sometimes wished that
professors could hear him defend the faith in the dorms; it would
have made them proud. Those who knew him well were sure that he
would give them the shirt off his own back if they needed it.
Our paths crossed several times over
the years. Since neither one of us is very conventional, we found
ourselves either up late at night or stuck on campus on the weekends
(most college students seem to take advantage of any excuse possible
to go home on the weekends to get mom's cooking, to do their laundry
or to see their girlfriend).
One such weekend was an Easter
weekend sometime in the middle '70s. Jim was a die-hard Cubs fan and
I was not. However, Ivan DeJesus and the Cubbies were hosting a rare
Easter game, and since Ivan had Jesus in his name we thought that
would be an appropriate place to be on that day (needless to say
that we weren't as mature in our faith then as we later grew into).
I don't even remember who won. I do remember that guys like Jim and
me could make an insignificant game that early in the season a
memory for a lifetime.
On another occasion, just a few days
before his death, I called Jim to enlist his help in some sound
problems we were anticipating for Jack Shultz's presentation on
Boomtown USA at the Maple Club. Of course, Jim knew exactly what to
do and who we should call. I will miss him and so will our
Steve and I also go back to the
'70s. He said that he remembered me or a guy who looked a lot like
me who had wild, funky hair and tried to play college basketball. He
said that I was fun to watch. I say it was a freak show, but if the
crowd was amused, so be it.
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My strongest memories of Steve were
when he and I were blazing the recruiting trails. He was the
director of admissions for our graduate school, the seminary, while
I was directing the admissions crew for our undergraduate school.
Our styles and approaches were completely different, but I had a
huge admiration and respect for him. I liked the way he got personal
with the recruits and demonstrated his caring nature with both his
presentation and his lifestyle. Since I was young and new to the
recruiting wars, he had a powerful influence on me. In some ways
some of the growth we experienced at LCCS over the years can be
traced back to his work.
He adored his family, and that is a
good example to everyone. He loved his faith, baseball, fishing,
running and gardening -- not necessarily in that order. He
transformed the campus on the east side of town from a mild
disappointment into a garden oasis. To me, one of the best things
about him was the way he reached out to people. He always wanted to
know how you were doing and what he could do to help you out. His
kind and gentle nature cannot easily be duplicated. I will miss
Steve's encouragement and the way he always left things better than
he found them.
I attended memorial services for
both of these men this past weekend. A thought I had during the
services is a thought that I have at virtually every funeral or
memorial service I have ever attended. How do you whittle down
someone's life and make it fit into an hour service? It just doesn't
seem right to me. That cannot be done.
So, I made a little deal with myself
way back in high school when one of my best friends ever, Roger
Prewitt, died. I could not grieve the passing of my friend in so
short an amount of time. My deal was this: Every time I see his
favorite color or hear his favorite song(s) or see somebody do what
he once did, I simply call out or speak his name. I fully realize
that these family and friends who have preceded me are gone, but
their memories stay as close to me as any others can, AND it won't
be long before I see them all again.
Though I am forced to physically say
goodbye to Jim and Steve, they will not be far from me. It is with
great honor that I dedicate this space to my two friends.