On Friday evening, my good friend Barry Foster passed away at the age of 70 from cancer.
Even though this story has nothing to do with football or the Kansas City Chiefs, I thought I'd share this time of grief with all of you, considering it may touch your life, or day, just a little.
Barry was a great man. People who pass away are always talked about in glowing terms, but few deserve to be. Barry isn't one of those people. Barry was an angel on Earth.
In my life, I never met someone who made people feel like the most important person in the world, whether they brought one dollar into his sports collectibles store as I often did when I met him as a 12-year-old boy, or a thousand dollars. We were all people, and thus to him, all the same.
Barry was a teacher and later on a superintendent before retiring from the school system to dive headlong into his passion of sports memorabilia. He owned a small store in my hometown of just over 1,000 people in upstate New York for over 11 years before he passed last week, giving away thousands of cards to kids who barely had food.
He understood the value of those cards. Each one might be worth a nickel, but to those kids each one represented hope. Barry made sure those kids knew they weren't alone in a world that can often be cruel.
The recent events in Boston have made people lose faith in humanity. Barry was the type of person who made you believe in it. Nobody had a bigger heart.
Now that he's gone, I think of all the memories I had with him. I think of how he used to exclaim "YOOUUUUUUUU" when I walked into his store or how he would tell a joke that only seemed funny because of the enthusiasm he had telling it.
A quick story for all of you: When I was in high school, he was having trouble moving product in the store, so he came up with the idea to put stickers on a ton of items (the stickers were hearts, of course), denoting them as half-price. The sale was supposed to last a week or two, so as a broke 17-year-old I went in and bought a ton of stuff.
For the rest of my life, everything in the store was half-off save the most expensive items, which were about 25 percent off. It was never about money with Barry. I can't tell you how many times I argued to pay the entire price, only to be flatly refused time and again.
Barry Foster was like a father to me, and so many kids who needed someone, or something to believe in. He was a shining light on all of us in a town that has an average income barely above the poverty line.
I was always lucky enough to have two loving parents, and with Barry I always felt like I had a third. Nobody who has ever graced this Earth was a better person. Nobody.
The takeaway from all of this? Be a good person. Be the best individual you can be. Make sure you let people know how important they are to you, it may change their life. Don't be afraid to tell someone you love them.
Growing up, I easily could have fallen in with the wrong crowd. His love, wisdom, support and guidance never allowed it to happen.
I always used to think one person couldn't change the world, and maybe they can't. What I do know is one person can change someone's life, can make them feel important, feel special.
Barry Foster did that for me and thousands of other people, especially kids, throughout his life.
He'll be missed, but never forgotten.