We all have that one friend, you know the one that would do anything for you, and they are almost always your best friend.
Now there are different types of best friends, you have you first; you know the one you meet in kindergarten and more than likely keep till Jr High. In high school you weren’t always limited to one best friend, sometime you had a group you were a part of and considered them all your BBF’s.
If you went to college you might have meet them there though sports, fraternity, sorority, dorms or social groups. This is the story of how I meet mine.
Our first meeting was not a good one, it was the spring of 80 and my high school basketball coach Zack Workman had arraigned for me to visit the campus of Northwest Missouri and play some pickup games with the team. The first person in the basketball office I meet was Coach Orr, as I was talking with him he explained that the head coach Lionel Sinn was at the airport picking up a recruit in walked Russ Miller their 6’11” center. I’m not short by any means but this was the tallest person I have ever met. Then in walked Mark Yager a skinny 6’6” kid from south Chicago and right after introductions he pointed at my gym bag and asked if I cane up to play, now even before I could answer he said in his south Chicago accent “boy that sucks, we’re not playing today, we’ve got a softball game!” and with that he turned and as he walked out I was thinking what a jerk.
Our second meeting happen because the few basketball offers I had were to schools that even with scholarship monies they were too much for me and my family to afford. I had decided to go to Northwest for their Industrial Arts program, and after a few weeks of classes I had found my way to the gym and it was playing pick games with the team that I got to know Mark, in fact it was at his urging that I approached coach Sinn about walking on the team. It was shortly after this that Mark walked up to me as I was answering the phones for work study at South Complex and said “You look like a Stew, I’m going to call you Stew from now on”! I have been called Stew or Stewy for years but, this was the first time anyone at Northwest referred to me as such. That summer Mark called me and asked me if I wanted to go in on a apartment with him Kevin Heruf and Rob Granquist, we became roommates for the next 3 years.
Mark and I grew into being best friends; he was my pledge pop in Sigma Phi Epsilon, I was his best man at his wedding and to this day the mug he gave me inscribed “Best Man, Best Friend” is one favorite gift.
Mark moved to Kansas City after school and we would talk almost daily, worked out at Golds Gym together, played in countless basketball leagues, Mark even named his first dog after me and called him “Stu”, I told him if I ever got a dog I’d name him after him and call him “Butthead”.
Our families treated us like we were members of each other’s family. Norm and Elaine would open their home to me when I would travel to Chicago back in my wholesale car buying days, Norm once talked me into taking a $75,000 (in 1991) 1968 Shelby GT 500 Convertible out with uncle Bob for a beer run. There was the true test of being a best friend too, it was Mark back in college who had to wake me and tell me of my grandfather passing. I remember when Norm passed and some of the family friends thought I was one of the brothers, which I took as the highest compliment.
As you grow older you find as I have with Parkinson’s that life has difference plans for you, Mark and Cindy moved back to Chicago years ago and our phone calls over the years have grown with less frequency, we talk on birthdays, holidays mostly. Mark travels for work a lot and his home time is spent watching his kids grow, Alexis is the 24th rank high school swimmer in the country and is heading to Tennessee this fall, Mark is a 6’4” 16 year old who is a pretty good baseball player. Both of who their uncle Stew is very proud of.
Now I’m blessed in having many great friends like Chuck, Stephen, Robert, Patti, Damian, Jennifer, and all my Northwest friends, and even though it takes Mark a week or two to get back to me and he hasn’t been to KC in a while, he’s still my best friend and today is his birthday, so happy birthday Pinnhead!
Your BBF Stew