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Vidakovich column: Conversations lost forever

Mike Vidakovich
Mike Vidakovich

A few weeks back, I was saddened to learn that my old friend Jennie Cruz had passed away. I hadn’t seen Jennie in many years and had pretty much lost track of her whereabouts. In reading the obituary in this paper, I found out that she was at the Heritage Park Care Center in Carbondale and had lived to be 100 years and 8 months.

Growing up in Glenwood, I used to visit with Jennie and many other members of the Eagles Club, which was located along the riverfront near where the Pullman restaurant is now. My mom and dad were staunch members of the Eagles Club, and I spent many hours as a boy there, talking with people like Jennie, Ann Wilson, Bette Pretti, Joe and Eleanor Phillips, Pat and Beulah Letey, Jenny Stephens, Jack and Floyd Simpson, Ida Tonioli, Stella Stelmaszyk, Larry Pretti and countless others.

As an adult, I also used to fill in as the pancake maker at the Eagles for their Sunday morning breakfasts. Wonderful people like Judy Hughes, Mildred Alsdorf, Anita Moulton, Bill Phillips, Bob Zanella and Jim and Sharon Nieslanik were my co-workers. We spent as much time gabbing as we did cooking and serving food, but that was fine with me. After cleanup and my free stack of pancakes and coffee, I would leave the Eagles each Sunday much richer for being around those folks.



I wrote a column many years ago that alluded to the fact that when an old person passes away, a library of stories and learning is lost forever. Seeing Jennie’s obituary I realized that most all of the people I have mentioned, including my mom and dad, are now gone. The lifetime of enlightening conversations I had with them are gone forever, but they occupy a permanent spot in my vault of treasured memories.

Many of you probably remember John and Angie Samuelson. Together, this unique husband and wife duo owned and operated the Glenwood Post newspaper for many years during my youth. John also doubled as the sportswriter for the paper, and he covered most all of the Demon basketball games during my playing days on the varsity from 1977-1979.



John had a colorful writing style that not only brought the Glenwood sports events to life for the reader but usually put a smile on your face with his references to Demon games and players from yesteryear.

Following graduation from college, being back in Glenwood as a teacher and a coach, I would often stop by the Samuelson house, especially after Angie had passed away, to visit with John and ask his opinions on the ever-changing landscape of the modern era of sports.

During these talks, I would find myself smiling again and chuckling at John’s almost comical references to those in the sports world that he approved of and was annoyed by. Being a lifelong CU Buffs fan, John would steadfastly refer to CSU as, “Those people up north.” He would also often use golfing terms to describe things in everyday life, such as, “That motel we stayed at was just a 3-iron from the old downtown arena.”

I miss John and our visits. In my fledgling sports writing career, I have tried to emulate some of his style, though I could never hope to match the spellbinding stories he would write about the adventures of the hometown Demons. One of my favorite headlines that John penned many years ago when I was in junior high school, described vividly a Glenwood loss on the road to those pesky Bulldogs “up north.”

“Craig Sends Demon Cagers Reeling!”

What in the world? I had no idea what reeling meant or what a cager was. After doing some research, I discovered that some of the earliest basketball games were played inside of a cage, so that the ball would not continually spill out into the stands. Reeling, I found out, described the lopsided score that Craig’s (They weren’t Moffat County back then) Bulldogs had put on the Demons.

I just told a friend of mine recently to enjoy being able to sit down and visit with his mom and dad. I do wish I could stop by my mom’s place, see what’s up, have some dinner, and watch the beloved Utah Jazz with her, but I can never do that again, at least in this life.

Many times, when someone passes, people will ask, “Why did God take them?” Perhaps a better question would be, “Why did He give them to us?” What did we do to deserve their pleasant company? The moments we shared with them are a gift, but their end is not a punishment.

So many libraries gone forever, I guess in this New Year I just need to make the most of the ones I can still visit, and cherish the many stories that are yet to be enjoyed.

Glenwood Springs native Mike Vidakovich is a freelance sports writer, teacher and youth sports coach. His column appears on occasion in the Post Independent and at PostIndependent.com.


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