About 12 years ago, I was on my way from my home in Covington to Baton Rouge to conduct some business when I received a phone call from my Mississippi-resident younger son. He wanted to know if I could meet him and my then 3-year-old granddaughter in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, that night for dinner and to watch the University of Louisville play the University of Southern Mississippi.
I agreed because the UL basketball coach was (and is) Rick Pitino, who had earlier coached at the University of Kentucky, my alma mater.
We observed the first half of the game, and at halftime, a group of people walked out to center court and proceeded to honor one of the earlier USM players, Wendell Ladner.
This ceremony caused my mind to race back many years to another basketball court in a shopping mall in Louisville, Kentucky. The Kentucky Colonels, an American Basketball Association team, had erected a temporary basket with Colonels T-shirts going to kids who could make a free throw.
We lived in Iowa at the time and were visiting family in Louisville, including older cousins of my two sons. The two cousins soon made their free throws and received T-shirts.
When my 3-year-old younger son was tossed the ball, catching it nearly knocked him off his feet. His subsequent shot went all of five feet in the air. It was then that Ladner, one of the Colonels, handed the ball to my son and lifted him to eyeball level with the goal. My son then slam-dunked the ball and received his shirt.
His two-year-older brother persisted until he also made his shot and received his shirt, so all the brothers and cousins were happy.
Sadly, Ladner was killed in a plane crash in New York City a few years after he aided my son.
Since that UL-USM game, I have marveled at the serendipity that brought me, my then 33-year-old younger son and his 3-year-old daughter to a time and place in Hattiesburg where my son’s benefactor in Kentucky so long ago was being honored. In my mind, I included Ladner’s generous act so many years ago as part of the plaudits he received that night. After that game, I wrote a letter to the editor of the Hattiesburg paper describing the above episode. The letter was printed in the paper under the heading “Mother Recalls Special Event.”
I did not think anyone would consider my name to be feminine.
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