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Read by Larry Litwin on behalf of the Philadelphia Sports Writers Association at Henry Clay’s funeral on July 7.
First I’d like to acknowledge your late pastor Reverend Britt Stargell. I miss his advice, counsel and friendship.
When I got the call last Saturday, the news of Henry’s passing hit me like a brick. I couldn’t sleep Saturday night. Like all of you, I am broken hearted. BUT, I am an optimist and continue to be – because Henry is in a better place.
Where do I start? How about at the beginning…when we first met – where else, but in a press box? This one…during a Phillies’ game at the Vet.
What kind of person was Henry Clay? Let me read from an email colleague Phil Neuman sent me soon after hearing of Henry’s passing: Phil speaks for many of us…
“This IS sad news,” wrote Phil. He said Henry was very good to him…especially when he first started in Philly back in the mid-80s. It was Henry who showed Phil how things worked in South Philly…little things like where to plug in his microphone during post-game news conferences and what rooms were used for other interviews.
Phil remembers there were a number of times he had problems…a broken tape recorder or his microphone went bad … or he may have missed an interview because he was interviewing someone else. He said Henry would hang around and make sure Phil had what he needed…all stuff he didn’t HAVE to do….but just helped out anyway. Phil speaks for all of us when he says…Henry WILL be missed by plenty of people.
My early memories of Henry are similar. While Phil met Henry in the 80s, I go back even further – to the late 70s. A few years later, I was one of his sponsors to join the Philadelphia Sports Writers Association. His membership goes back nearly four decades. I will miss Henry because of his regular emails – containing information about Philadelphia media…and the Sports Writers Association.
Before the days of email, it would be a Henry Clay phone call…just to assure I was in the know and wasn’t caught by surprise when changes were happening in radio, TV or in print.
Here are a couple of recent examples:
- He was the first to tell me about the Philly Journalism Institute getting millions in new donations assuring The Inquirer would be around for years.
- He wrote a mail telling me to “Be careful with PayPal. There’s a scam going on and HE – Henry, didn’t want the Sports Writers to lose any money because of the scam.
- He wrote about Dawn Staley – South Carolina’s women’s basketball coach: He suggested, she’s got to be at next year’s banquet. Wrote Henry: I nominate Dawn Staley who just added another chapter in her unbelievable life as a basketball player, leading the South Carolina Lady Gamecocks to their first NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship. Getting her here will be difficult, he said, as they will be in the middle of conference play again. Just a thought, he said, she will be coaching in the USBA Basketball Season, this summer, but, she always comes into Philly for a girl’s summer league game no matter what she is doing. Maybe if she were chosen for the award, the presentation and speech could be pre-taped and shown at the banquet. If, she could be flown up here the night of the banquet and right back, I would think the ticket sales she would generate would offset a major part of the cost.
- That was Henry – always thinking – not about himself – but of others.
- He would mail me or call when one of the Sports Writers previous award winners was a guest on ESPN or another channel – or was interviewed on the radio and mentioned the Sports Writers Association and was among the first to call me when our colleague Frank Bertucci passed away unexpectedly. Henry would always say, “I just want to be sure YOU know so you can mass mail all the members.”
- And: almost monthly, Henry would email me the Philadelphia radio ratings just so I could stay on top of the industry we love so much.
Henry – whose 73rd birthday would have been Aug. 19th – spent years covering Philly sports…and thinking back to Phil Neuman’s experience…and mine, too, he certainly touched a lot of people – the athletes, writers and students who wanted to do what Henry did – cover the games we grew up playing and watching. There is no doubt in my mind, Henry – who faced personal challenges over years…as did many of us… made a difference in this world and helped make it a better place for all of us. As we who are Jewish say of those who have passed: May Henry Clay forever be a BLESSED Memory.
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