Almost a year after Kobe Bryant and his daughter died in a helicopter crash, Tiger Woods looked death in the face and death blinked.
The Tiger Woods incident this past week underscores just how fragile life can be, whether it is in the midst of this COVID-19 difficulty, an accident, old age or just time.
Woods escaped with some serious injuries to his legs and ankle and underwent surgery. But he survived.
So many others in these tragedies do not, like Kobe.
Horace wrote, “I shall not wholly die, and a great part of me will escape the grave.”
And that’s true.
This all became personal for me when my younger brother Kent died Jan. 21, 2021, in Provo, the day after my nephew Darin Draper of Cedar City passed. And Kent’s passing was three days after a good friend, the legendary coach and beloved comic Tony Ingle, died of COVID-19. That came 30 days after my mother-in-law, 98-year-old Afton Jacob, who lived with us for 24 years, died. Afton passed nine days after Kent’s father-in-law, Max Nelson, 94, died in a Payson veterans hospital.
You get the theme. Death, funerals and memories.
And all this came in the tragic, awful death of University of Utah star running back Ty Jordan, who died in December from an accidental gunshot wound while on a holiday break back home in Texas.
Before we get to the Utah-connected sports figures who have died during the past 14 months, here are some of the national celebrities who passed in 2020: baseball legends Bob Gibson, Tom Seaver and Lou Brock; football players Gale Sayers and Paul Hornung; and coaches John Thompson and Don Shula. These came in a very difficult stretch of time in which we lost performers Wilford Brimley, Sean Connery and Kirk Douglas and singer Kenny Rogers.
Why this glimpse into the departures?
Because it helps to remember, to celebrate, to move on.
A family member shared the following quote from David Kessler with Kent’s wife this week:
“Each person’s grief is as unique as their fingerprint. But what everyone has in common is that no matter how they grieve, they share a need for their grief to be witnessed. That doesn’t mean needing someone to try to lessen it or reframe it for them. The need is for someone to be fully present to the magnitude of their loss without trying to point out the silver lining.”
I like that.
Here is a list of some locals who have died the past 12 to 14 months. It is not meant to be all inclusive because it is easy to miss a name. It is, however, a significant roster of those who died.
Ladell Andersen, former basketball coach at BYU and Utah State, passed away at the end of 2019.
Dean Larsen and Herschel “Bones” Pederson, members of Stan Watts’ most successful basketball teams in the 1950s, passed in 2020, as did one of the school’s all-time leading scorers, Roland Minson, and Watts’ favorite hoopster, Ed Pinegar.
Bill Marcroft, longtime voice of the Utes and Salt Lake City television sports anchor, passed in November 2020.
Eldon Fortie, BYU’s first All-American, died in January 2020 in Arizona at age 79.
Larry Wilson, a Ute All-American two-way player in the late ’50s and a Hall of Fame safety for the Cardinals, died in September 2020 at the age of 82.
Bob Garff, a member of the Utah Winter Olympics organizing committee and owner of the Utah Blaze, passed in March 2020.
Jerry Sloan, a legendary NBA player and coach of the Utah Jazz, passed early in May 2020.
Phil Krueger, former Utah State football coach from 1973-1975, died in June 2020.
Calvin Monson, a former member of the Mormon Yankees in Australia, died in November 2020.
Former Utah quarterback Lee Grosscup, credited with creating the shovel pass, died in June 2020.
Phil Russell, a highly successful girl’s high school coach at Ogden High, died in November 2020.
Jim Yerkovich, who led Judge Memorial High through 44 years as a basketball coach and mentor, passed in June 2020.
Arlen Peacock, a former Utah State Amateur champion and president of the Utah Golf Association, passed in October 2020.
Fred Davis, three-time All-American wrestler, 1955 individual NCAA wrestling champion and 20-year BYU wrestling coach, died in July 2020.
Dave Disorbio, beloved longtime Judge High baseball coach, who also played catcher for the University of Utah.
I’m still at that stage where I want to pick up the phone and call my brother to break down a game, joke about politics, ask for advice. Nope.
May they all rest in peace and may we remember and comfort those loved ones who remain on earth.
And it is so good that Tiger Woods survived.