I do not know when or where I first met John Wend, but I am certain it was at some kind of ball game somewhere. John passed away last week at the age 75.
If you never had the chance to chat with John, well, you missed a treat. He greeted everyone with a warm and welcoming smile, and always had a story to share.
I worked with John for about seven years, mostly at the old Greenfield Daily Times and for a short time at this very newspaper. I have been fortunate enough to work with lots of good people in this business, and that continues to this day. But I have never enjoyed any of them any more than I did John.
John and I shared a passion for athletics. Back in the days when I worked with John, I was a pretty big sports fan. But I did not hold a candle to John. He was an athlete himself, and I assume a pretty darn good one. But he never talked about that much, other than to once tell me about a gym he played in during his high school days somewhere in the area of his hometown of Nelsonville. He said that in this particular gym there was a pot belly stove, and that one of the out-of-bounds lines ran straight for a while, looped out around the stove, then straightened back out.
I can remember that big smile breaking across his face and hear that unique laugh of his like it was yesterday as he told the story.
I also remember that sometimes – or maybe most of the time – it was tough getting a word or two in when John was spinning a tale. But it didn’t matter, because the stories were that good.
John was much more than an athlete and a storyteller, though. Besides being a kindly human being, he was a coach for all seasons, the Voice of the McClain Tigers and Chillicothe Paints, a sports reporter, the Paints marketing director, and no doubt touched more kids’ lives through his involvement with athletics and elsewhere than any of us will ever know.
Check out a little social media. You’ll see what I mean real quick.
John lived his life his own way. From what I’ve been told, when he got sick this summer, he chose not to take treatments that might have extended his life. I do not know for sure, but I assume he wanted to live the rest of his life as he always had, happy and without being a burden on anyone any longer than necessary.
I could tell you more about John, the lives he touched, the happiness he shared, the pleasure he was to be around. But I did that in this space a few years ago when he had a different bout with illness.
So I will leave you with a couple other thoughts.
When I saw John’s obituary, I was in struck by how perfectly it fit him. “John R. Wend, 75, of Greenfield, God called time out on Sunshine Drive on Thursday, Nov. 2, 2017, as John went to the big sports arena in the sky,” the opening paragraph said.
Then at the end, when talking about his visitation that will be held in the McClain High School gym, the obituary said, “Casual dress required by wearing your school colors.”
Even though he was not originally from Greenfield, the Tigers’ purple and gold ran in his blood. But down deep, colors didn’t really matter. He just wanted to see people come out to a game, have some fun, and support the kids.
It will not be the same going to a McClain basketball or football game without hearing John’s deep voice booming over the public address system. But none of us live forever, and I am just glad I got to know John Wend for a while. I’m glad I could call him a friend. He brought happiness into my life and the lives of so many others.
Here’s to you, John. See ya’ at a ball game in the sky.
Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522 or firstname.lastname@example.org.