Friday, August 17, 2012

My Friend Scott

It was 25 years ago this Summer that my Dad took a promotion that moved us from our home of 17 years in St. Louis to Denver. I had just completed my junior year at St Louis University High School (SLUH) and my parents gave me the responsibility of choosing whether I would stay with them or finish my senior year in St Louis. That decision was a lot of responsibility for a 17 year old!  I look back now and think how supportive my parents were entrusting me with that decision. Thanks Mom and Dad.

St Louis had a lot going for it. It was familiar. My sister was there, as were many friends. And I loved attending SLUH. But moving to Denver had its merits too. My parents and two brothers were there. There was excitement and adventure in exploring the unfamiliar. And there were those majestic purple mountains...

It was on a visit to Regis Jesuit High School earlier that Spring that I had met Scott Alter. I had told the school's Dean of Students, Michael "Mr D" Doherty, that I had wanted to know more about the swimming program there. As it turned out, Mr D was also the coach of the swimming team, and it was a strong program (Missy Franklin goes there today). Anyway, Mr D's eyes lit up as he said that he knew the perfect student to show me around. His voice then crackled over the school's PA system as he called Scott down to the principal's office to be my chaperone.

It was immediately apparent that Scott had well-rounded social skills. He was that kid who was respected by classmates and teachers alike. From the get-go, he was accommodating to me; he didn't ask much -- no needling questions -- but just enough to know a little of my background.  After that, it was as if he simply accepted me as part of his circle of friends. And his circle was wide as it was deep. He had this charisma that just drew people to him. Everybody like the guy.  At the end of my visit, I remember feeling that if I did decide to go to Regis, I already knew that I had one friend there. Thanks, Scott.

Later that summer, I took a job life-guarding and coaching the 8 and unders swimming. My employer was also the same Dean of Students, Mr. D, who ran a summer business managing private neighborhood swimming pools that he staffed with students he culled from his swimming team. It was a good gig. He paid well and there were lots of lifeguard parties to go to. It was at one such party that I caught up with Scott again.

Scott helped me meet a lot of new friends that summer. So much so that when it came time to making the decision to stay in Denver or go back to St. Louis, it was already made. Although I could never replace the SLUH experience and life long friends there, I knew in my heart that I was only looking for a reason to stay in Denver with my parents before going away to college. I was also excited about the challenge of trying something new.  It probably would have all worked out anyway, but I was certainly more confident with friends, thanks in large part to Scott.
Scott's parents were also awesome. They had a cabin on Buffalo Mountain near Frisco, CO where they enjoyed entertaining during weekend getaways. Thanks in large part to them and their hospitality, I learned how to snow ski that winter over many weekends up at Copper Mountain. Thanks, Alter family.

My high school senior year was truly amazing. In less than a year, I went from a familiar and comfortable life in St Louis, to living like a rock star in Colorado. Again, thanks Scott.

Our Regis swimming team did well that year. Scott and I both had strong programs. Strong enough to earn athletic scholarships on Creighton's swimming team. That scholarship is what made Creighton affordable and was what brought me to Omaha. We were roommates three of four years in college.  Oh God, those were some fun times.  I could tell some stories...

After undergrad, Scott went on to Dental School, while I moved to Phoenix for a job. Our lives started diverging on different paths.  But it was okay. We had a friendship that was built on a solid foundation. Though we spoke less and less over the years, our friendship never shifted. When we talked or caught up on email, it was if time had never separated us.


Scott passed away suddenly this past spring at the age of 42. What started out as flu-like symptoms was later revealed to be a massive blood clot that had formed in his leg that eventually got lodged in his heart. He died in his home while the paramedics tried to revive him.

Katherine and I were driving back from a vacation in Santa Fe when I heard the news. In fact, we were on our way to spend the night with my parents in Denver when my Mom called me. I will never forget hearing my Mom's voice break up when she began to utter his name -- Scott Alter. I already knew in my heart the words that were coming next.

Scott left behind a beautiful bride, Jennifer, and two equally beautiful children: Samantha and Jack.

We buried Scott in Aspen on Passover, which was also the day before Easter. I cannot describe the mixture of grief and joy that was experienced that weekend. Heart wrenching. Even now, I am transported to that space and time as I think of that we recounted tales that made Scott such a special gift to those who were fortunate enough to encounter him.

Because his funeral was on Passover/Easter weekend, and in Aspen, it was decided that a second memorial service would be held at a later date in Denver for those who were unable to attend. The memorial service is this weekend, and I'll be in attendance. Lately my mind has been filling up with those bittersweet emotions, thinking again about my good buddy Scott.

It's rare when you meet someone like Scott. Someone that has the ability to dispense with all the formalities and just become your friend in an instant. And not just your friend, but a best friend. He was that way to me and to so many many others.

Thank you for your friendship Scott. You were, and always will be living on in our hearts.

1 comment:

  1. Very well said. All the people who know and love you in Omaha owe a debt of gratitude to Scott. May he rest in peace and smile down on all the lives he touched.