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Chris Gay: Always remember Drew Passmore

Posted: March 26, 2017 - 1:32am

Earlier this month, I interviewed Drew Passmore after Augusta Christian played its first night baseball game on its campus.

When I went home to write the story - I live about 5 minutes from the school - I tried my best to misspell his last name. Originally, I had his name spelled "Passamore." I wanted to make a two-syllable name three. Something told me that wasn't correct, so I went back and checked it again.

I tried to figure out why I wanted to add an extra letter to his name. Maybe it's because I like the rock band Paramore (three syllables). Passmore, in my mind, sounded better with an extra vowel. Since then, I've come to understand and appreciate (and learn how to correctly spell) the name. I don't want anyone to forget it.

Drew Passmore.

Eight days ago, I received a text from Augusta Christian's baseball coach, Steve White. The previous evening, as I was working on a soccer story, he texted me with good news. Nyle Grove had pitched a no-hitter for the Lions. I typed up the box score and info and emailed it to the newspaper. Steve and I also arranged an interview with Nyle for Monday for an Athlete Spotlight feature - one we'd later have to reschedule.

I received another text the following day as I was en route to cover more soccer. This text wasn't as fun to read. Steve filled me in on the situation: Passmore was seriously injured in a car accident. Steve's first four words: "Please be in prayer."

Like many of you, I prayed for the entire Passmore family. I prayed for comfort. I prayed for healing. I prayed for strength.

Thousands of prayers traveled heavenward over the course of this past week. While Drew eventually succumbed to his injuries, I don't believe those prayers were wasted. Drew brought a large community of people together. There's something to be said for that.

Augusta Christian's No. 11 battled hard. Now I hope we all continue to pray for the Passmore family in this difficult time. Give them hugs. Send them food. (That's what we're good at in the South.) Or send along a financial gift via the GoFundMe page set up for the Passmores: https://www.gofundme.com/support-for-the-passmore-family.

I find no joy in writing about this, especially as a father of three 11-year-olds. I wish there was more light-hearted stuff to talk about. Let's argue about politics, please. Let's talk about all this delightful road construction in Columbia County. Let's discuss the horrible parking situation at the new Atlanta Braves stadium.

Unfortunately, people of all ages die. We don't get to choose when we exit. My friend, Steve Patch, didn't get to decide, either. Ironically, he was an Augusta Christian graduate, a former football player for the school in the late 1980s. He and I became friends in the mid-1990s at then-Augusta College. We worked on projects outside of class time in our respective communication majors and enjoyed each other's company.

Steve was bright, funny and could talk like Yoda on command. After I graduated, I lost contact with himSteve. I was busy working two jobs, while he was busy trying to get his degree. Then, six months after college graduation, a childhood friend of mine returned to town one weekend. After finishing my Friday night shift at the paper, I visited Jason at his uncle's house in Columbia County.

Jason's uncle, Tim, asked me about life and I told him I had recently graduated. He then asked me if I knew a guy named Steve Patch. When you go to college or work somewhere, every now and then people will ask you if you know someone there. Even in the 1990s, more than six thousand people attended what became Augusta State University. More often than not, folks would ask me if knew someone attending school there and the answer would be no. When Tim asked me about Steve, it came as a surprise. Then, he told me he had cancer - it was a major shock. You're not supposed to get cancer in your 20s.

Many times, I've thought back to this conversation. How did Tim know Steve? Was that God talking through him? Was it predestined I was supposed to reconnect with Steve? I have no answer.

The following day, I called Steve, and his brother answered the phone. He filled me in on the situation. The cancer was serious, but Steve had started undergoing treatment. Soon after that phone call, Steve and I resumed our friendship. We started doing things together like watching wrestling pay-per-view events with some other friends or playing golf. For a year and a half, Steve battled hard against cancer. Eventually, he lost that battle. Steve was 28.

The story of Steve, though, didn't end on that sad November day in 1999. Six weeks later, my friends Jason and Miriam Smith got married in Thomson. That day, we honored Steve at the wedding. Soon after, Jason, several friends and I found another way to remember Steve.

We put together three charity golf tournaments in a three-year span and raised $10,000, endowing a scholarship in Steve's memory at Augusta State. It is a very generic scholarship given to a student whose life has been affected by cancer. The scholarship is still at now-Augusta University. When it was endowed back in the early 2000s, we were told it would be a $500 scholarship awarded on an annual basis. It's not a lot - it might buy you a few pages of a biology book - but it was a way for all of us to honor Steven Wyatt Patch and give back to the community. I think he would be proud.

I think Drew Passmore would be proud as well of what's happened over the past week. He'd be proud to see so many people of faith come together in Augusta. He'd be proud to see the overflowing support for his family and the Augusta Christian family.

Now is our time to remember No. 11. Remember him for his fun-loving personality, for being loud, for dressing up like Santa. Remember him for being a good classmate, a good ballplayer, a good friend, a good family member. Remember him for being himself.

Augusta Christian will continue to honor him with his number painted on the baseball field. Maybe in the near future something more permanent will be done to remember him. Until then, never forget his name.

Drew Passmore.

 

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