Good ones passed away in 2010

"Dandy" Don Meredith used to cap the telecast of Monday Night Football on ABC with his trademark singing of the Willie Nelson song "Turn out the lights, the party's over."...

Virg Foss
Virg Foss portrait

"Dandy" Don Meredith used to cap the telecast of Monday Night Football on ABC with his trademark singing of the Willie Nelson song "Turn out the lights, the party's over."

Sadly, the party ended for Dandy Don in 2010 as well. His name is on a lengthy list of sports figures, including Robin Roberts, Bob Feller, John Wooden and George Steinbrenner who passed away in 2010.

Some cast large shadows in their professions, others far beyond. Dick Francis, for example, became well known as a rider in horse racing in England. But he made his reputation for his novels based on horse racing. I knew nothing of him as a jockey, but I own and have read every book he wrote, so I mourn his passing.

It's like that in life. Often those who pass away have no idea of how they've touched our lives. They've influenced us in some way and left a hole in our soul with their passing.

My list of such people who left a mark in my life and who died in 2010 reaches beyond sports.


I lost a cousin in Warren Johnson, who grew up on a farm near my grandparents by Stockholm, Minn. As a kid, I'd see his photo in the living room of his parents' home, Warren looking resplendent in his Navy dress blues, and be impressed with that. Did that eventually influence my decision to go into the Navy after college? Perhaps, not sure.

The year 2010 marked the year a couple of people I worked with at the newspaper passed on in Dick Blair and Jeannie Laughlin. Good people both, kind souls. I felt the same when I read of the passing of Pearl Ward. I worked with her husband, Harold, at the newspapers for many years, and came to appreciate and enjoy Pearl as well.

Several men who weaved into my life and influenced it as coaches at some level passed away in 2010, and won't be forgotten. I think of Ray Stinar, Duane Hennessy, Perry Nakonechny close to home and Denver University's Murray Armstrong. I mourn their loss while thanking them for touching my life.

It's not possible to run across men who were more passionate about sports and willing to share their thoughts than men like Dave Rubin and Jack Gray, forever Fighting Sioux fans.

I think of Jerry Keller, who worked behind the scenes to promote East Grand Forks American Legion baseball for many years. He always had a ready smile and the willingness to dig up the information I was chasing. I came to truly appreciate him.

I never met Jim Harris in person, but we traded emails quite often. As the athletic director at Alabama-Huntsville, he was a tireless worker promoting hockey at the school. I worry about whether the sport can make it there now that he's gone.

I give a final salute to a dear friend in Carol Ann Irey. I will always miss her kind heart, gentle smile and soft words of friendship.

Everyone of you could make your own list of people who influenced your lives and who died in 2010.


As we close the year, take time to remember those people in your hearts. That's all I ask.

Foss is a Hall of Fame journalist who reported on sports for 36 years for the Herald until his retirement. He writes a weekly column from October through April. Contact him at or at (701) 772-9272.

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