Heaven won#8217;t be the same with Dick McCarthy in the front row

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Sometime this fall, on a warm, clear Saturday afternoon, there will be a loud noise that might sound like thunder.

But it won’t be thunder. It will be Dick McCarthy and some of his friends like Joe Holtzapfel and A.J. Tomondi. They’ll have front row seats near St. Peter and they’ll explode as Brady Quinn passes to Jeff Samardzija for a Notre Dame touchdown.

Dick McCarthy died this week. Regular readers to The Ironton Tribune know him for his letters to the editor as he kept an eye on the city government.

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But a lot of those people didn’t know the man behind the keyboard.

About 11 years ago, Dick had an operation on his lower back and a doctor’s error left him paralyzed. He was relegated to a wheelchair, a telephone and the Internet.

But Dick made the most of what he could do. I know. I got a steady diet of e-mail messages, most of which were news releases about Notre Dame football.

And there were the occasional phone calls to check out some rumors he had heard. I remember how hopeful he was that Notre Dame would hire Urban Meyer. I always liked to play devil’s advocate, but then I would get serious. He liked Meyer while I was promoting some guy named Charlie Weis. As he watched Weis turn Notre Dame’s fortunes around, Dick fell in love with the new coach.

But that was Dick McCarthy.

Dick loved the Fighting Irish. Even in a wheelchair, he made the long trip to South Bend to watch games. He became a pen pal via e-mail with former Irish linebacker Rocky Boiman. The two finally got together at a game.

I remember when Dick had his surgery and Mike Swarts called and told me what had happened. He said Dick was, understandably, extremely depressed.

I called then-Irish coach Lou Holtz who had the same operation at about the same time. Holtz, who was on a recruiting trip, promptly sent an autographed picture that lifted Dick’s spirits as high as Touchdown Jesus’ arms.

But not all my memories of Dick McCarthy revolve around Notre Dame, although it was hard not to associate the two.

Walking into St. Lawrence for noon Mass, Dick would be sitting in his wheelchair and praying the rosary. Of course, he would be wearing a Notre Dame jacket.

Our loss is heaven’s gain. Knowing the way Dick is, don’t be surprised if someday you’re greeted at the pearly gates by St. Peter wearing a Notre Dame jersey.

Jim Walker is sports editor of The Ironton Tribune.