By Hal McCoy
There are tears in my eyes and my heart is burdened with sadness as I sit in front of my laptop.
Words are supposed to come easy for me, but they are stuck in my throat.
For the second time in less than a week, a dear friend has departed. First it was Mike Pratt and now it is Mark Schlemmer.
Sometimes life just isn’t fair.
Schlemmer, a long-time sports talk show host and former University of Dayton baseball coach and minor league manager, passed away this morning in hospice care.
Schlemmer was one of the toughest guys I ever knew. He fought hard for several years with an assortment of ailments, any one of which would floor anybody else. And never once did I hear him complain or say, “Why me?”
He was heavily opinionated and not afraid to voice them and defend them. His Facebook page was extremely popular, especially his Sunday Sermons and his Sunday list of one-sentence pieces of advice.
He was a devout Cincinnati Bengals fan and a non-lover of the Cleveland Browns, so we had many lively discussions on the merits and detriments of our favorite teams.
And he and I made daily horse racing picks for fun from tracks all around the country. He loved long shots while I stuck to horses that had a chance.
Often I would pick four winners on a card and he would pick one winner, but that long shot would pay more than my four winners and he would say, “Always nice to hit a Hail Mary.”
The last time I saw Mark was at a breakfast at Mom’s Restaurant in Franklin — Mark, me, Ray Snedegar, Hutch Konerman of channel 2, Mark’s brother and Justin Kinner, Mark’s co-host on their WING sports talk show.
We sat at a long table in the middle of the restaurant devouring omelets and jabbering about sports. Mark ate half his omelet and took the rest home.
When he retired from WING a couple of years ago, his health already was failing. He didn’t believe he could write, it was even difficult for him to type.
He asked my advice and I encouraged him to keep writing on his Facebook page. And he did it, daily, with many, many posts a day about the sports world. He did it while in a hospital bed, never letting on the pain he was enduring.
He thanked me over and over for my encouragement, but it was Mark who everybody should thank for him entertaining us right up to a month or so ago when it was no longer possible.
He and I shared a love for dogs and he worshipped his rescue dog, Areola, The Wonder Dog. Photos of the pooch appeared often on Marks Facebook page.
And his photos? Never without a baseball cap perched on his head.
There were some very hard times in the recent past that had nothing to do with his health. He needed help and some friends stepped forward, especially his good friend, Donna Grusenmeyer, who devoted so much of her time to help him out in so many ways. In effect, she was his guardian angel.
Mark, my dear friend, I miss you already. For so long, like your long shot horses, you beat the odds. You were one tough hombre. And now it’s time to rest in peace. After the battle you fought, you deserve it.