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Friday, Apr. 29, 2016

Helping others came natural to Dodgers legend

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Back in the early 1960s, things were tough in Howell County, just as they were most everywhere in southern Missouri and northern Arkansas.

Job opportunities were scarce in those rural areas and those that did have jobs still had trouble making ends meet on a regular basis.

And these economic woes had an effect on the local sports scene, as well.

A couple of members of the West Plains High School basketball team looked like they would be forced to miss the upcoming hoops season.

Not because of injuries, but because of a lack of a couple of bucks.

At the start of pre-season practice, the coach informed the squad they would be wearing Converse Chuck Taylors that year and that the players would be responsible for purchasing their own pair of the canvas sneakers.

In those days, a pair of Chuck Taylors, sneakers that had just increased in price around that time, would set a person back $4.25.

While that's really nothing these days, especially for a pair of basketball shoes, back then, that $4.25 might as well have been $425 for families strapped for ways to just put food on the table for their loved ones.

And this was what was poised to keep a couple of young men, pretty decent basketball players, from being able to suit up for West Plains High School -- $4.25 apiece.

But the coach remained firm -- no Chuck Taylors, no basketball, fellows.

Word about the plight of the budding basketball players quietly made its way back to Preacher Roe one afternoon, and low and behold, the next afternoon those players were on the practice court wearing brand-new Chuck Taylors.

No comment was made about just how the shoes got there, especially from Preacher himself. Matter of fact, Preacher didn't even relate that story, preferring to stay in the background without all the accompanying fanfare.

That was just the kind of man that Preacher Roe was. Ready to help whenever needed, all without taking any credit for himself.

There's no telling how many selfless acts of giving Preacher did in his life, but there were probably more than could be easily counted.

Especially when the youth of community were in need.

More than just the giving of his time or his money, Preacher was genuinely concerned with making sure that he served as a role model to all the eager little eyes that were cast upon him.

No matter what sacrifice he personally might have to make to do so.

Consider that at one time, Preacher had an opportunity to do a beer commercial that was set to feature several former MLB legends.

He would have earned $50,000 for doing the commercial, and the job would not require much work, probably taking just an afternoon or so to shoot.

However, feeling that appearing in a beer commercial might send the wrong message to local youth, Preacher flatly turned down the commercial and the $50,000 check that went with it.

That's a role model talking the talk and walking the walk.

Preacher was also a prime mover in seeing that there was an organization in place for young ballplayers that wanted to take to the diamond, having a chance to follow their dreams like he had done.

He helped start West Plains' American Legion and little league programs, donating equipment and even coaching the teams.

And that's probably just the tip of the iceberg.

Preacher never turned down an autograph request -- during his playing days he'd stay an hour or two after the game signing balls, or even in retirement when he still received a mountain of fan mail asking for autographs.

That was just the way that Preacher was raised, and he carried that upbringing throughout his life, whether pitching in the World Series in Yankee Stadium or tending to the tomatoes in his garden in West Plains.

Preacher remained the humble little kid born in Ash Flat and brought up in Viola.



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