Wow - in a little over a week, we've lost three people to cancer. Last week after Thanksgiving, we lost Uncle David to prostate cancer. David was adopted into the family years ago and he was like a brother to my mom.
Yesterday, we lost Andre Coe to brain cancer. Andre was one of my brother-in-law's best friends. I had the pleasure of being escorted down the aisle by Andre at my sister's wedding in 2010. We saw him just a few months ago when my sister and AC were in town. He was doing well, still driving even and bowling. He even busted out some push ups in our living room when an impromptu testosterone-fueled contest began. But not so long ago, his doctors informed him there was not much more they could do. Andre Coe passed away yesterday at the age of 36.
DALLAS — Andre Coe, a former editorial assistant in the Dallas bureau of The Associated Press and the cooperative's regional news desk in Phoenix, died Friday. He was 36.
During his career at the AP, Coe reported from the Texas Gulf Coast in the wake of Hurricane Ike in 2008, and was one of the first reporters to arrive at the scene of a bus crash that killed 17 passengers in Sherman earlier that year. He wrote about the 45th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and the return of US Airways Capt. Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger, who successfully landed a passenger jet in the Hudson River in 2009, to his hometown of Denison.
"Andre would appear in our cramped newsroom after a long day out in the wet heat of a summer disturbed by Ike, drop a backpack heavy with gear, and inquire about our story," said David Scott, the AP's Central Regional editor. "Invariably, it was a story for which he'd again earned the byline, having dictated throughout the day the details and interviews that made it work."
Coe had just started working as an editorial assistant at the AP's West Regional desk in 2010 when he was diagnosed with brain and lung cancer.
"Andre was an inspiration to everyone he met," said Dale Leach, AP's Chief of Bureau for Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana. "Even when his body was failing, his spirit remained hopeful and uplifting. We will miss his presence, but always remember his spirit."
Coe was born in Fort Worth and grew up in Abilene. He graduated from the University of Texas with a degree in sociology in 2000 and returned to the school to earn a second degree in journalism in 2003.
Before coming to the AP, Coe was a reporter at the Montgomery (Ala.) Advertiser and the Dallas Examiner. He also had interned at the Austin American-Statesman and the Abilene Reporter-News.
"He said his biggest accomplishment was being a journalist, working where he could tell other people's stories," said Kim Bogney, one of Coe's three siblings.
He was a member of the Phi Beta Sigma fraternity, where his nickname was Aries, for his warrior spirit, she said. Coe was an ROTC cadet and also a huge sports fan.
While battling his illness, Coe would often visit his colleagues and joke about the weight and hair he lost during his treatment for cancer. He was a constant upbeat presence on Facebook.
"He remained happy, joyful and positive even while being fully cognizant of what he was facing and he truly inspired everyone who knew him during that period because he fought that battle joyfully," said Matt Curry, a reporter in the AP's Dallas bureau, who became good friends with Coe as they worked together at night.
While Coe was ill, he wrote a book of humorous stories about his life titled "The Life and Times of a Curly Headed Kid from West Texas."
"Andre was very carefree," Bogney said. "He lived his life. He didn't leave anything on the table."
Coe is survived by his mother, Irene Coe of Abilene; two sisters, Vickie Hall of Plano and Kim Bogney of Allen; and a brother, Anthony Coe of Round Rock. Funeral services are pending.
And then today, we got word that a friend of ours from Buffalo, Allen Wilson, passed away. Allen was a writer for the Buffalo News and covered the Bills games while Ryan was on the team. Years ago, we were both traveling to New Orleans for a preseason game and got stranded in the airport due to weather. Back on an early a.m. flight the next morning, we struck up a friendship. We talked about our children - his baby girl was not too much younger than Will. He told me about his amazing wife Lisa. Allen connected with Ryan - Allen was a former tight end. We'd talk about football and how things were going with the Bills - he'd encourage me to continue to encourage Ryan. I still appreciate that - we didn't have too many sports writers in Buffalo who gave a damn about a third-string tight end who busted his butt every weekend on that field. Allen cared. I'd see him after all the games and he was just an awesome guy. Always happy - always pleasant.
He was diagnosed with leukemia a while back - I was so sad to hear the news but was sure that Allen (of all people) would beat it. He did for a while. We saw him at the NFLPA party during Super Bowl week here in Dallas this year - he looked good. It was great seeing an old friend.
I was devastated to read his wife's Facebook update on Thursday that he was not doing well. He was in ICU. His organs were shutting down. The doctors told her there wasn't anything else she could do. Lisa admitted that there is only so much the body can take. Allen passed away today. He was 49.
Allen Wilson was blessed with all of the underrated "soft skills" that make a successful journalist.
He was a great listener. He was sincerely curious about everyone. He made people see that he was genuinely interested in whatever they had to say. He rarely turned the focus of the conversation on himself. He had to earn everything he got in life, so he wasn't judgmental with the people he interviewed. He empathized with people across all social boundaries.
All those qualities made Wilson an award-winning sports writer and columnist for The Buffalo News. Wilson died Saturday at age 49 after a battle with leukemia at Roswell Park Cancer Institute.
Wilson worked for The News for the past 20 years and was a Buffalo Bills beat writer since 1999.
He was widely respected among journalists and by the teams he covered for his astute knowledge of sports and for his commitment to fairness and accuracy.
"He's one of the finest individuals I've ever met," said Steve Jones, retired Buffalo News executive sports editor. "He was a great reporter in terms of his work ethic, his sincerity and his involvement with the subject he was writing about. He always really enjoyed throwing himself into the subject. He never treated any story or any interview subject like it was routine."
Wilson was honored five times in the past decade alone by the New York State Associated Press Association for both sports reporting and column writing. He won the AP's distinguished sports reporting award in 2007 for a two-part series he wrote on former prep basketball star Ritchie Campbell. (Part One | Part Two)
Wilson's positive nature and unassuming style endeared himself to those he covered and gave him an uncommon knack for building trust with athletes and coaches.
"He made you feel very comfortable," said News sports writer Rodney McKissic. "I knew him for 22 years, and whenever I was feeling kinda down about anything, he would always make me feel better. That's just the kind of person he was.
"He was like a chameleon. He could hang out on the East Side or hang out in Williamsville and be right at home anywhere. He could get along with anybody."
"I know this is a cliche," said Joe Major, a friend and radio colleague of Wilson's, "but I have not met one person that had some dealing with Al who didn't come away genuinely liking the guy. That's the toughest part."
Born in Durham, N.C., Wilson was an avid sports fan his entire life. He was an all-conference outside linebacker in high school. One of the highlights of his senior year was getting the chance to work out a few days with then-college star Lawrence Taylor, who went on to a Hall-of-Fame career in the NFL. Wilson played tight end for two years at North Carolina Central University before a knee injury ended his football career. In his senior year at NC-Central, he was a member of the school's NCAA Division II national championship basketball team. One of his athletic claims to fame was playing a pickup basketball game with NBA great Michael Jordan.
His favorite teams growing up were the Dallas Cowboys, New York Yankees and the University of Notre Dame, and he remained loyal to them throughout his life.
"I used to give him grief for being a front-runner," Jones said. "I'd say, 'Al, I don't get it. The Cowboys, the Yankees and Notre Dame? Isn't there an underdog team in your life you're rooting for?' "
Wilson had a lifelong passion for writing. Upon graduating from college, he worked for the Durham (N.C.) Morning Herald. He moved to the Rochester (N.Y.) Times-Union and then the Orlando (Fla.) Sentinel before joining The News.
It was early in his News career that he met his wife, Lisa, who now is executive sports editor at The News.
Wilson worked the high school sports and college sports beats for The News and covered numerous NCAA Final Four basketball championships. In 2006, he and News reporter Keith McShea won a New York Newspaper Publishers first-place award for a series on the scarcity of African-American coaches in area schools. He has covered numerous Super Bowls over the past decade.
"When he was covering high schools, he almost had a big-brother type attitude toward the kids he dealt with," Jones said.
Wilson took pride in having a vote for college football's Heisman Trophy the last 15 years and followed the college game intensely.
"He loved evaluating," Jones said. "His business wasn't college football in the big sense. He covered the Bills, and he had to be familiar with the college games. But he had every cable package possible and watched a lot of games every week of the college season. For our draft preview, he'd be giving us 18 players deep on special teamers. I'd tell him, 'Al we're not going to run more than five of these guys. We don't need the eighth-ranked long-snapper.' "
Wilson was a founding member of the Buffalo Association of Black Journalists and a former vice president of the group. He also participated in the chapter's "YGB" news radio show targeted at "young, gifted and black" high school students, once taking a group of student journalists to Buffalo Bills training camp and arranging for them to interview coaches and players for a story. He also helped the high school journalists put together a live call-in show with himself and other professional sports reporters to discuss the team's prospects.
He was one of the hosts, along with McKissic and Major, of a radio show, the Sports Insiders, that ran for the past decade on Buffalo airwaves.
Besides his wife, Wilson is survived by a daughter, Alissa, two brothers, Jimmy and John, both of North Carolina, two sisters, Sharon Smith and Gwen Crutchfield, both of North Carolina, and his father, John Sr.
Funeral arrangements are pending.
I'm editing to add this...
I just went back and searched my Facebook messages - Allen and I corresponded back on November 13th. I told him I was glad his sister was a bone marrow match. He said it was truly a blessing since there was only a 25% chance of finding a match. Then he added, "As always thanks for the thoughts and prayers -- they really work." Sigh... no words...
It has been such an emotional week dealing with a trifecta of very difficult losses. Good people, all with loving families, who will truly, truly be missed. Please pray for their families during this difficult time.
"Weeping may endure for the night, but joy comes in the morning." Psalm 30:5