Fred was a maker of mens suits. Not door-to-door, but to the major department chains. I learned this not as we passed in the entry, but only after sitting and gabbing for years. That is the best part. If you didn’t have anyone to tell, what is the real sense of winning?
I got to know him. We didn’t play golf on my day off, but we could talk about more than just the weather. He was a gent. The kind of man who left an impression. Somebody you would have wanted to be friends. I had the opportunity to do just that.
He had cancer 5 years ago. I watched as he progressively battled, and how brave he carried himself. The day he was found to be free of this illness was his big winner. He made it his p0int to not do anything he didn’t want to do. Sounds easy, right? He wanted to be a better handicapper who won consistently. Who doesn’t?
He read everything, and could quote number systems used 50 years ago. He became that player. I was then allowed into his world. He began talking more and more to me at this time. He never married, and his parents and sister had passed away years ago. He really had no person in his life except his track family. The guys he laughed and cussed with, and the guys who would hold his seat as he went to buy coffee. They were his family. He would double as a bookie of sorts who would take about 10 players sports betting action. Nothing big, but something that made him the man of the group.
He told me that if something ever happened to him, that he would be happiest if the people knew who his favorite rider was, and how much was his biggest win. They would be thought of as his real friends. I understood, and knew he wanted to be with only those who really knew him. He was stricken with that horrible disease for a second and final time. Once again, he would be so brave. He was at the track two-days before he passed away. I guess we all could have taken a hint from his wisdom. I heard his last day included a winning I.R.S ticket. I am sure he is laughing as he got the best of the man….
When he was laid to rest, the track bugler played and 100 friends were there. They ranged from clerks and waitresses, to the many people he came into contact with. His passion was betting the ponies, and his new family never let him down. They were always there, and you knew what to expect. In one of our final chats, he told me he was content in life. He did well in his career, made wonderful friends from the track, and fell in love with the thundering hooves of racing. What more could a man want to be said? Maybe the winner of the next race, or the final double. He left me the real winner.