I met Chuck Reinert when I was assistant sports editor at The Garden City Telegram in the mid-2000s. He came across as a big, lovable teddy bear.
He was working at the Lakin Recreation Center when we got to know one another. He invited me to attend an umpire camp put on by his friend and Garden Citian Todd Tichenor, who was a minor league umpire at the time and just a year or two away from reaching the big leagues.
But I really got to know Chuck through Facebook after I left Garden City. We became close through our mutual loves of music and God, and our jovial discussions about sports officials and their way-too-often horrible calls.
While most of those who commented on my regular and passionate rants about this blown call or that blown call, Chuck never took the side of the official, but saw both sides of each argument, often taking my side.
Chuck was the epitome of a sports official. Whether it was football, wrestling, volleyball — it didn’t matter — he was fair and honest, and able to diffuse most hostile situations with his charm and professional demeanor. It also helped that he was a big man, able to take care of himself.
The man spent as much time on his knees in prayer for me and my family as anyone. We grew close through prayer and Scripture that was shared through the years.
This year I found myself reciprocating that prayer when Chuck was diagnosed with melanoma. But when his body didn’t respond to chemotherapy, he and his beautiful wife Catherine made the tough decision a few days ago to take him off all medications and place him in hospice.
Fortunately for Chuck, his painful stay in hospice didn’t last very long. He died early Friday morning.
While we are thankful that he is no longer in pain, in our own selfish ways we are sad that we have lost a dear friend — one who probably had no enemies.
I look at my life as I grow older and with my recent diagnosis of diabetes and I again become selfish. I want to be 21 again, playing ball with reckless abandon, eating and drinking anything I want until I can eat no more.
I am often told that growing old is a blessing that not everybody gets to enjoy. And while I find little enjoyment in daily pain and aching joints, I am reminded to live every day to its fullest.
I can lay in bed and moan and groan about what hurts and what used to be. Or I can look at the future with promise — as that shy, bashful young man has grown, so has his people skills and his desire to be with people rather than shun them with defensive walls.
Chuck was a big help in that maturity and I will forever be grateful.
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