Archive for Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Remembering Cliff from much better times

September 17, 2003

There are no harder stories to do in this business than when someone known to the community dies. That's compounded tremendously when it's an 18-year-old and one that you've known for years.

That's what happened with the tragic death of Cliff Sudja Sunday. Cliff was killed in a two-vehicle accident on U.S. Highway 56 near Globe when his car crossed the center line and hit a trailer.

The details are in the front-page story. They're not as important here.

I've had to do more than my share of these stories over the years, but it was the toughest phone call I've had to make when I talked to Cliff's dad, Rudy Sudja, Tuesday morning. But, it's a call I'm so glad I made.

Yes, it's true. Losing a child, especially in a car accident, is a parent's worst nightmare. Rudy assured me of that. He understandably was still quite shaken Tuesday over what happened Sunday. But, he was able to talk about it and his wish for every parent really hit home. He hopes no one else has to go through what he has with Cliff. I can only imagine.

Cliff was one of those special kids. He was a friend of my son Anthony dating back to elementary school. I watched them in all sorts of activities over the years and that included junior high basketball. Cliff was a 3-point shooter and I always loved to watch him take aim.

Once that class made it into high school, Cliff gave up basketball, as did several others. It was sad to see, but that happens. However, for whatever reason, the old junior high team reunited last year to play the spring session at Sport-2-Sport. When Anth showed me the roster for the team, I couldn't believe it. There was Kyler Troth, Jordan Schaecher, Andy Cramer, etc., etc., playing again.

It was fun to watch. But mostly it was fun to watch Cliffy, as I always called him. He always had so much fun playing the game.

That was the last time I saw him. That's what I'm going to remember. I hope his friends and family will, too. That was another of Rudy's comments to me Tuesday. He was so glad he got to watch Cliff play again.

You never know, folks, what will happen. Enjoy those kids, every second you can.

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  • There was another Sept. 11 remembrance at Baker University last week. Baker minister the Rev. Ira DeSpain again put the program together.

There was music and dramatic readings. But mostly it was a time to reflect on how 9-11 changed the world. It didn't get as much play during the second anniversary, but it's still a huge part of our lives.

That's what Rev. DeSpain took away from last week's observance, that everyone has been affected by the tragedy, even here in Baldwin City.

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  • The fourth-annual Bulldog Bash came and went Friday and was again a huge success. The annual fund-raiser puts money into the coffers of numerous activities in the school district.

It originated as a fund-raiser for junior high football, but has since been branched out to all activities. What I like most about it is how it is truly an event that brings the entire community together. And, yes, that means Baldwin and Baker University. It's the way it should always be.

But there can be no doubt about the biggest reason for the Bash's success. That's Rick Weaver. The BU basketball coach and all-around great guy has spearheaded the effort from day one. The job he does is amazing. Thanks, Rick, you're the greatest.

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  • If you're a volleyball fan or if you're not, don't miss the last chance to see Baldwin High School standout Emily Brown play Tuesday at home.

Brown has orally committed to play volleyball at the University of Kansas next year. She was the 44th ranked high school graduating senior in the nation, according to a volleyball player ranking service. That's more than amazing that a BHS player is that good, no matter what the sport.

NCAA rules forbid college coaches from saying anything about their recruits until the national signing period in November. When it's official, I'll be doing a story on Emily. It just wouldn't be complete without the coach.

In the meantime, don't miss her play. BHS plays Tuesday at 5 p.m. in the high school gym.

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