Hook, Line and Sinker

By Tony Hooker
I tend to look at everything through the lens of sports.  

I’ve been this way since I was a kid and my Uncle Bill would regale me with tales of his playing days. Every year, he would take me to St. Louis to a ball game, and he would start telling stories before we left VG and wouldn’t stop until we reached Busch stadium.  When we headed back home, he would do the same thing, and never, in all of the years I was blessed to spend with him, did he tell the same story twice.

So, with this in mind, I’m reminded of a few things.  First, Sports at all levels are replete with tales of tragedy and loss.

Nile Kinnick was a Heisman Trophy winning running back for the University of Iowa, whose football stadium now bears his name. Kinnick who was attending Law School before being sworn in to the US Navy three days before Pearl Harbor lost his life while training to be a Naval Aviator on board the USS Lexington.  While in flight, his plane developed an oil leak so bad that he was unable to return to the ship and had to scuttle the plane at sea, off the coast of Venezuela.  He was 24 at the time of his death.

Oscar Taveras was an outstanding baseball prospect for the St. Louis Cardinals, having been signed at the age of 16. After rocketing through the Cardinal minor league system, in the spring of 2014, Taveras was rated as the number 2 prospect in all of baseball according to MLB.com. and made his major league debut on May 13, 2014.  In true superstar fashion, Taveras collected his first big league hit by homering off Giants pitcher Yusmeiro Petit.  He went on to spend another month bouncing between Triple A Memphis and the big-league club for another month before returning to the Cardinals for good on June 30.  He played well enough to make the Cardinals postseason roster, hitting a home run in the only game the Cardinals won against the eventual world champion San Francisco Giants, in what would prove to be his final at bat.  Taveras was 22 years old when he died in a crash in his home country of the Dominican Republic.

Sadly, as we all know, tragedy isn’t reserved only for college and pro athletes, and this week our family here at The Journal was stricken by grief when Mya Irvin, sales associate Jamie Morse’s oldest daughter, was killed in a car crash in Colorado.  Mya was returning to her home in Monte Vista, CO after visiting her family in Villa Grove.

Because our families were so close, I had a chance to watch Mya grow from a little girl into a beautiful young woman.  In fact, she was my son’s date to his senior Prom, and though we hadn’t remained close after she graduated, it looked like she had finally found her niche, after a few fits and starts that most of us could relate to as eighteen-year-olds.  

Around me, Mya was almost always the quiet one, but she had a mischievous glint in her brown eyes that hinted at an underlying orneriness. She wasn’t ever very interested in sports, to my recollection.  I think she participated in track for the socializing more than for the competition, but where she shined was in the art room.  She had a rare gift for creating art that few possess. She was always so sweet to my daughter, who has been her sister’s best friend since forever, so much so in fact that my kid often refers to her as her other sister. Unfortunately, as is often the case, she sometimes found herself being bullied by the ignorant, who looked at her loving disposition and artist’s soul as weaknesses, when in fact just the opposite was true.  She was tougher than anyone ever knew, in her own way.  

Mya leaves behind the light of her life, her daughter Bela, along with her parents, sister Kaitlyn and brothers Nolan, Oliver and Ryker and other family members.

Fly high, sweet butterfly.  Watch over your family from above, and we’ll do our best down here, without you, sad at your passing, but glad that we got to know you while you were here.

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