Old Friend Inducted into STHS Sports HOF

Richard Patrick “Dick” Kirtley
St. Thomas HS Sports Hall of Fame
Inducted April 29, 2017

 

Last night, Saturday, April 29, 2017, one of my best friends through high school and college at UH was inducted into the St. Thomas High School Sports Hall of Fame at a dinner held at the 4500 Memorial Drive @ Shepherd Drive campus on Houston’s near west side.

Dick Kirtley was my closest friend on so many levels because we both shared a fiery interest in both sports and writing, although his accomplishments in football far exceeded anything I ever did in baseball. Dick was a three-season letterman at St. Thomas, playing both ways on the line from 1954-56 – and then topping that off by earning All State honors in his senior year. He also played basketball and ran track in high school, while also connecting with me as a sports writer for the St. Thomas Eagle. Dick and I ended up playing a lot of tennis together at UH as members of the Phi Kappa Theta fraternity, while also finding time to write comedy sketches together – one based upon silent movie melodramas made it into our big time stream of student performances at the Cullen Auditorium, but all the others played as skits we composed for various fraternity functions throughout the school year.

And this extracurricular writing stuff was taking place on top of the fact that he was also a full-time science major student attending UH on scholarship as a two-way lineman (1959-61) after starting his collegiate career playing freshman ball and one varsity season (1957-58) on scholarship playing football at Texas A&M under legendary football coach Bear Bryant. When Bryant left A&M for Alabama, Kirtley elected to transfer to UH. And that turned out to be great for the Cougars and those of us from the St. Thomas Eagle tree who welcomed our reunion with his company at UH. Kirtley then played three seasons at UH (1969-61) under Coach Hal Lahar – and just missing the start of the 25-year Bill Yeoman dynasty that started in 1962.

The hard thing about last night was missing the physical presence of our old friend, even though the spirit of Dick Kirtley filled the room as I accepted this honor in his behalf at the request of my also great friend, Laura Kirtley, Dick’s widow.

You see, three weeks prior to the induction ceremony, on April 8th, Dick Kirtley came home near noon after his usual Saturday morning workout. He had lunch with his wife of nearly 50 years, Laura. Then went into their den for a nap.

He never woke up. He died in his sleep from still undetermined causes. Heart attack was ruled out and the most likely cause was an undetectable aneurysm that had not shown up on any of his recent extensive testing.

About last night. – It was a night for both sadness and joy.

Not to be neglectful of the other worthy inductees, here is the entire list of inductees into the St. Thomas High School Sports Hall of Fame, in the order of their presentation. Dick Kirtley was the only deceased inductee. That’s not how it was planned, but sadly, that’s how it worked out:

Dick Kirtley ’57
John Braniff ’59
John Pizzitola ’62
Tom Brown’65
Rick Azios ’69
Dan Newman ’75
Rick Apolskis ’85

Fly High, Old Eagles! Fly High!

Laura Kirtley and her adult children, Ryan and Kristen, wanted me to have this framed photo that had been hanging in my friend Dick Kirtley’s study for decades. I remembered it immediately and could not restrain the tears. It commemorates an elaborate skit that Dick Kirtley and I wrote for a big end-0f-summer Hawaiian Party that our Phi Kappa Theta fraternity staged way back on August 28, 1960. It featured, of course, our favorite comedy team to parody, Laurel and Hardy.

__________

The inscription on the Laurel & Hardy photo reads as follows:

Scene from “LAUREL & HARDY MEET FRANKENSTEIN IN THE HAWAIIAN ISLANDS” as performed here by BILL McCURDY & DICK KIRTLEY (hands on chest) at the Phi Kappa Theta animal house August 28, 1960. The show ran for one night only, but 21 years later, Kirtley is still asking his friend, “Why don’t you do something to help me?”

__________

Laurel and Hardy already had crept into our minds earlier, while Kirtley and I teamed to play doubles tennis in tourney play. When I’d make a mistake that cost us a point or advantage, Dick’s question for me invariably came back to “why don’t you so something to help me?” On the other hand, when Mr. Kirtley flubbed-the-dub on a play that put us in a hole, it left the door wide open for me to come back with Mr. Hardy’s most famous exclamation of frustration:

“Well, here’s another fine mess you’ve gotten us into!”

Damn I miss my old friend this morning. Letting go of the people we love is without question the hardest loss that any of us shall ever suffer.

Have a great Sunday with your own special people today, friends. And never take their presence for granted.

Love is the best appetizer for joy when it’s served actively.

____________________


Bill McCurdy

Publisher, Editor, Writer

The Pecan Park Eagle

Houston, Texas

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2 Responses to “Old Friend Inducted into STHS Sports HOF”

  1. MIKE MULVHILL Says:

    Bill,
    Wish I could have been there to help honor one of my favorites while at St.Thomas. I know you did a great job presenting his story to the group. A great addition to the HOF and the 50’s clan.
    Mike

  2. DougS Says:

    Great tribute Bill; sorry for the loss of your friend.

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