Thursday, March 11, 2010

The passing of Ben Legere - SF CYO loses an original

Several weeks ago, I attended a SF CYO 7th grade boys basketball championship game in which my old grammar school was playing. When I showed up to the gym, I was happy to see that I knew the two officials working the game. One of them was longtime (50+ years) CYO referee and Hall of Famer Ben Legere.

I usually officiate with Ben a few times a season during the boys basketball season. However, due to work, my high school season and other things, I hadn't worked many CYO boys games and thus didn't work with Ben at all this season.

During halftime, I went downstairs to the court to say hi to Ben and the other official. Ben was happy to see me and we chatted a bit. Ben had always been a little quirky and had seem bitter and withdrawn the last few years I had seen him. On this day though, Ben seemed much more relaxed and happy than I remembered him from a couple of years ago.

It was during that day that I found out a local TV station had interviewed Ben and produced a short story on Ben which aired later that evening. The story can be seen here:

Unfortunately, these two particular memories will be my last ones for Ben Legere. After umpiring a baseball game in San Bruno on Wednesday, Ben collapsed while taking the bus home and passed away. He was 77 years old.

My first experience with Ben was back in 1987 when I played my first ever CYO basketball in 8th grade (my school did not have sports teams until that year). He officiated our first ever game in which we lost 35-28. I don't recall if he officiated any of our other games during my 8th grade year.

After I moved on to high school, I returned to coach at my school and saw Ben around but didn't interact with him a lot. It wasn't until 1993 when I began officiating in CYO that I started to interact with him more.

Like I said before, Ben could be quirky as an official but he had good knowledge and was always willing to share his views. You only had to listen to him. I know many officials found Ben frustrating at time to deal with and I could see why.

On the other hand, Ben had dedicated his life to CYO and youth athletics. He was unmarried and lived a solitary life. Even though he could be difficult to deal with at times, I overlooked that because I felt like he sometimes just wanted people to talk to. As my friends will tell you, I am a very patient listener and gave my time when I could.

As I look back, I am thankful that Ben was always giving me advice on my officiating and he was instrumental in helping me mature. Tomorrow night will be my first week of officiating CYO girls basketball as I missed the previous week. I think it will be an emotional night because it will be the first time in my 17 years of officiating that Ben Legere is not with us.

CYO has lost one of it's originals but heaven has gained one heck of a person. Rest in Peace Ben. You've been a part of many people's lives for years and your influence will be felt for many years to come.