Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Don Seeley remembered: Our eulogy

Eulogy offered at funeral for former Mercury sports editor Don Seeley, July 1, 2013: 

I would like to thank Don’s family for inviting us at The Mercury to have a voice here. We know the difficulties of being the wife and children of a newspaperman. We’re honored you asked us to share in this tribute to his life.

Several years ago, I had the privilege of sharing a podium with Don at the 2007 Pottstown Relay for Life. We were the speakers for the luminaria ceremony. Relay was giving an award to The Mercury that year for our support. Don was supposed to say a few words introducing me, and I was supposed to say a few words in acceptance.
But when Don started to speak, he went vintage Don Seeley. He made an amazing speech about the newsroom’s support during his battle with cancer, and he ended with the stadium crowd hushed and me in tears.
As I tried to collect myself, I said to him, “You are certainly a tough act to follow.”
That’s how I feel today. 
If Don were speaking here, he’d have this crowd in the palm of his hand. He’d make you laugh. He’d make you cry. He’d inspire you and have you believe that you can beat cancer, that student-athletes are our future salvation and that sports is a game of dreams and miracles.
As great a speaker as he was, Don was an even better writer. He covered sports with an obsession for stats and accuracy, an eye for personality and an intuitive ability to discover the inspiration inside the story.
In a Mercury story about Don's passing last week, Gary DeRenzo said, “Don always found the silver lining and celebrated it.”
His longtime friend Mickey McDaniel said, “The guy had an impact I don’t think he ever really knew or understood.”
Don was always a little incredulous at the reaction to his stories. 
He fussed and fretted a lot when he was writing a story about someone. He took this craft so seriously, and he worried about failing the young athletes he wrote about.
A few years ago, when Pottsgrove football standout Terrell Chestnut was being recruited by Division I schools, Don interviewed him for a feature about the hardships Chestnut overcame.  He said it was such a great story he was afraid he wouldn’t do it justice.
He was the same way last December when Pottstown native Navy Seals Commander Job Price died. Don worried he wouldn’t adequately convey the character and courage of Price’s life.
In his retirement column a few months ago, he was worried he would forget to mention someone. Well, I edited that column and there were so many names in it, I don’t think he forgot anybody. 
Don was also, as you all know, quite the comedian. He would hold court in the newsroom, at social gatherings at Brookside Restaurant or the Elks, on the golf course or the sidelines of a game – telling stories, some of them appropriate and some of them not.
When he went missing sometimes at work, we would find him downstairs entertaining the first floor, or outside in the alley, Wawa coffee cup in one hand and a cigarette in the other, everyone around him laughing at something outrageous he had said.
In closing, I have just one anecdote I would like to share.
Don stopped in the newsroom a few weeks ago for a visit, and he noticed our summer intern sitting at his desk.  You can imagine the Papa Bear routine that followed:  “Young lady – do you know where you’re sitting?”
He then introduced himself, asked her where she went to school and if she was majoring in journalism.
I expected to then hear from across the room a diatribe about long hours, low pay, things not being what they used to be and the erosion of print. 
Instead, this is what I heard:
“Great career choice. 
"I just retired after 37 years in this business and I loved every day. I wouldn’t have wanted to do anything else. Journalism is great work, and it’s been good to me. Good luck to you.”
He had that backward. It’s not that journalism was good to Don Seeley; Don Seeley was good to journalism.
When Don retired, we said the newsroom would never be the same. I have a feeling that after today, heaven will never be the same either.
Don was truly one of a kind.   
And we were truly blessed that he was one of us.

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