Certain individuals become a fixture within your life. Pillars of the community that you imagine will always be there. They have that bigger than life persona and you enjoy hearing whatever they have to say. They make everything just a little bit better. You just always expect them to be there. Yes, logic tells us otherwise, but I'm sure you're thinking of someone right now that fits the bill.
My Father was one of those folks as was Mr. Bill Byham. He was always just Mr. Byham to me, as I knew him my whole life including when he was a teacher at South Williamsport High School.
A couple years back Mr. Scott Lowery and his wife Jean put on a party of celebration for Mr. Byham. There were good people there from every walk of Mr. Byham's life. Of course his family and his broadcasting partners over the years Ken Sawyer, Gary Chrisman, Mike Fogarty. Coach Frank Girardi and Steve Wiser represented his Lycoming College family. And of course Steve Keener representing Little League Baseball, the list just went on and on. It was a Who's Who of local sports folks, community leaders and beyond. I was just honored to be invited as part of his Webb Weekly family.
The Byham family sat together as guests took turns expressing their gratitude and appreciation, along with some entertaining stories about Mr. Byham and their experiences over the years. I won't say there was any ‘roasting’, all was done with good humor and with class. His wife Nellie, as always, was by his side. She has always been Mrs. Byham to me since my kindergarten days at Southside. A great evening was had by all. A special shout out to Scott and Jean for organizing the event and Mr. Don Crouse at the Villa for hosting the special night.
Mr. Byham always had great wisdom and a kind word about whatever you asked him. I remember over a dozen years or so ago when I was coaching baseball at Brandon Little League, I asked Mr. Byham to come over to practice and work with a couple of my south paw pitchers. The "Ol’ Left-Hander" had no trouble talking pitching with 11 and 12-year-olds. He helped improve both young men on the mound and followed up on their progress with me. That’s the way he was, always caring.
Mr. Byham just had that way about him. His knowledge coupled with that gentlemanly approach. He could cover about anything with anyone no matter what walk of life they were from. And with true grace, if he didn't know the answer he would tell you so and then find out for you.
His voice was a fixture on the radio over the years like that of Vin Scully, it just relaxed you and made you feel right at home. You wanted to listen to Mr. Byham whether it was a Little League World Series or his “That's 30” show on WMPT. I remember being a young athlete in Southside; his show was being broadcast as I was paying for baseball cards and a candy bar in the pharmacy next to Curchoes where CVS now is. He talked about me on his show. I had made Mr. Byham's radio show! It was like I hit the big time, the equivalent of ESPN and Chris Berman of today. You get the jest.
People, especially sports fans, wanted to hear and read what "Buck" Byham had to say. It was my Father who made the call to Scott Lowery who then recruited his good friend Bill to also write for Webb Weekly. This was instrumental to our early success having both men penning articles each week. They, starting with Mr. Byham, were the first columns I read each week. Sorry Dad.
Mr. Byham wrote over 200 columns for us; his last was just a little over a year ago about one of his favorite events, the Backyard Brawl.
They just don't come any better than Mr. and Mrs. Byham. The couple epitomizes what a marriage should be. Nellie is truly an amazing lady, by Bill's side at every turn of life but always her own person. A great smile and more love and kindness than I could put in words.
My sincere condolences to the Byham family. Mr. Byham will be missed by all. Not many folks have touched as many lives and done so much during their lifetime.
Mr. Byham is now in God's dugout, or broadcasting booth — take your pick. I'm sure there are some great conversations going on up there.
God Bless America.