We remember a great man...Wednesday, April 03, 2013

I have some sad news to report today. Some may even call it somber, but I prefer to think of it as the ultimate reason to remember a great man, who inspired so many of us.

I had a long list of things to write about, and it was pretty easy to come up with material for this installment because I've once again been remiss in staying on top of this thing as well as history indicates I should.  The bottom line is that I leave for Las Vegas tomorrow, I'm feeling really good, and I can't wait to get there. There's a lot for me to do, and it all starts early Friday morning at the track as we prepare for a wide range of things that I'll be in charge of out there at The Strip, and those responsibilities mean I won't be able to attend a scheduled softball practice with the NHRA squad, who of course will take on the NASCAR boys prior to the Charlotte race. 

The practice is set for 9:00 a.m. on Friday, and with the first nitro session not set to run until 3:00 that afternoon you'd think that would be plenty of time for a PR guy like me to drop by and lend my talent evaluation input to Bob Vandergriff and the guys. In the real world, however, the 9:00 a.m. practice lends itself perfectly well to a group of drivers, but a low-level grunt like me has "stuff to do" out at the track, so as they begin to limber up and play some catch, I'll be pulling into the LVMS parking lot to work on tickets, guest lists, and decals, before it's time to warm up the car. To be sure, though, Bob V and I texted some potential line-ups back and forth last night.

The weirdest thing for me is that the last time I was at a race track was more than five weeks ago!  That's crazy, but the one way you can make that happen during the season while only missing one race is to miss Gainesville. With two weeks off both prior to and after the Gatornationals, if you miss that one you're going five weeks plus. Very strange...

Anyway, let's get to the part of this blog I both greatly feel an honor and obligation to write, but also wish I never had to.

Adam Vincent, our friend in Hawaii, has passed away. 

I didn't learn about Adam's passing until this past weekend, when his widow Francine reached out to me via Adam's email address (a fitting yet eerie thing, all by itself). She had told me, a few days earlier, that Adam's condition had worsened considerably, and that's saying quite a bit considering how much he had been suffering for many years now, with cancer that wouldn't loosen its grip on him. I've not known another person who battled any harder than Adam.

He passed away peacefully on March 24, in the hospital.

Francine was as devastated and distraught as you might imagine, when she contacted me with the news. I wrote her back and, in some words approximating these, relayed my thoughts.

We often give lip service to the concept of "celebrating" a person's life when they have left us, but that's mostly as a way to conceal or appease our own grief. We also, too often, have to think about some specific good things we can say about the departed, out of respect for family and friends. In addition, we get a little more numb as we all get older, because the frequency rate of funerals increases dramatically, and shockingly, compared to our younger years when decades might separate the times when we'd put on a suit, attend a service, and try to comfort the crying family members.

None of that applied to Adam. He was a wonderful giving man, who brought as much joy to me as I could've imagined when thinking of a person I met so late in life, on a distant island. He was a friend, and felt like family. He was beyond gracious, and was the most inspirational man I think I've ever met. While he was losing his battle to cancer, the theme of every long (carefully worded) email to me was typically "Don't worry about me, I've overcome worse. Now envision holding that Wally this Sunday and make it happen. If you believe it, you will achieve it. Build a trophy case for the NHRA World Championship trophy, and it will become yours..." 

Some of you may be so new to this blog that you don't know the story. You may not be aware of how this group of readers saved Adam's home, and his life, a few years ago. With his medical bills piling up, he, Francine, and their son Mike were unable to keep up with the rent on their home in Pearl City, and despite his infirmity they were days away from being evicted. Such a thing would've killed him before they could possibly find another place to live.

I knew I was willing to write a sizable check to help them out, but I was struggling with a way to really reach out and help this marvelous family in a more long-term way. And then it hit me...  Use the power of the blog.

It's the only time I've ever done anything of this sort here. I simply wrote a blog, included this photo of me with Francine and Adam, from when Barbara and I visited their home a year earlier, and told the tale. I vouched for the man. I had shaken his hand and felt the strength. I had sat in his home and gotten to speak with him at length. It was my turn to help. I simply told the tale. And I included his address.

As if out of a movie script, the envelopes began arriving within 24 hours after the blog was posted. Too many for their small mailbox to hold. Kind notes, heartfelt wishes, great support, and such deep sincerity from so many of you. And checks. And paper money. From a few dollars to many hundreds. You all saved his home, and his life that week.  It was one of the most amazing things I've ever been a part of, and I still cannot thank you all enough.

Many of you have stayed in touch with Adam, and some have continued to support the Vincent family. It's been a story I've had a hard time digesting, despite the fact I started it. Thank you all.

When I learned of Adam's passing, the first things I felt were relief and happiness for him. He's been suffering awfully for years, and although it's been a joy for me to be his "inside conduit" to the sport he loves, and a privilege for me to introduce him to so many of you, it was painful to know how much he was struggling. He is finally free of that.

We no longer have this sport or this planet to share with him, but we are all better for having known him.

I've "invested" in a lot of things in my life, including this blog. To be a part of this outpouring of support for a man and his family who none of you ever met, was simply overwhelming. I hope the "return on investment" was as valuable for you as it was for me.

Adam is gone now. But his legacy and the memory of the man will never fade. I hope he had even a slight inkling of the impact he made, on so many people, while he was with us.

For those of you who have been touched by Adam, if you'd like to send Francine and Mike your condolences I know they would appreciate that.

The Vincent Family
1582 Noelani Street
Pearl City, HI   96782

Rest in peace, Adam Vincent.  Godspeed.

Wilber (sadly but proudly), out!