Monday, October 13, 2008

Pegged out: Harold Hiser Sr

by Paul Neumeyer | The Saginaw News
Saturday October 11, 2008, 8:00 PM

This column isn't as much about sports as it is about life.
Harold Hiser Sr. loved sports as much as he loved life.

He loved to teach as much as he loved to compete.

He loved to share as much as he loved to care.

He loved to laugh; so much, that he could make you cry.

Tears are falling in and around Merrill today now that Harold is gone. He died on Thursday at age 83 from cancer.

But if ever there was a man who lived, and did so the "right way," Harold is your man.

He was a proud World War II and U.S. Navy veteran. He was a milkman, sports enthusiast and eager community volunteer.

For years, he and his wife Laura (who died Oct. 15, 2005) made homemade taffy and turned twine into rope.

If you had an special piece of wood, Harold would admire it, then turn it into one of his cherished cribbage boards. He numbered each one he made, and was continued working on new boards until near the time of his death.

Harold's final cribbage board total: 187. Check that. His son Chip retells a story where Harold actually made two boards he numbered double-zero. After making the first one and selling it his first buyer, Harold reconsidered and thought he should keep his first board. So he made another identical board, numbered it double-zero, and exchanged his original first board with the replica.

So the final count stands at 188.

At 4 p.m. each day, Harold and Laura would sit down at their kitchen table and play cribbage while enjoying a highball or two. They did this for many years, and their love for each other (and competitive fire) grew with each passing day.

On Wednesday nights during the summer, you'd find Harold in the stands at the Jonesfield Township softball diamonds, watching the men's softball teams play. Or you could find him at other times watching Little Leaguers sprout from the diamond.

During school months Harold and Laura often took their taffy and rope-making talents to schools, 4-H and other youth venues to pass along the knowledge they knew and loved.

Harold and Laura were both givers, and Merrill and the mid-Michigan community were fortunate to receive.

Best of all, both of them always maintained a great sense of humor.

Harold only stood about 5-feet-6 tall, which made himthe butt of one of Merrill's favorite jokes. Fable has it that former Merrill football and basketball coach Bob McAnary used to proclaim that if his town had a taller milkman, the basketball team would have taller players.

Each time that joke was re-told within Harold's earshot, he'd laugh as if it was the first time he heard it.

Over the past decade I was fortunate to get to know and appreciate Harold's generosity and genuine spirit. I often would receive a phone call on Tuesday mornings from Harold. If I was in a meeting or not at my desk, a message to call him would await.

When we connected, he'd always greet me and then say, "I just wanted to let you know I enjoyed your column on Sunday." More times than not, I'd bet a nickel he didn't remember what my column was about, but his thought and gesture meant more than any column topic.

I finally crossed one of my "must dos" off my list last spring when I stopped in on a Sunday afternoon to play some cribbage with Harold and a couple friends. It was a fun-filled afternoon, one I hold dearer to my heart today.

When all the pegging was done that day, I had lost. But we all won because of what Harold provided not only to us that day, but to Merrill and the surrounding communities during his lifetime.

Now, when thunder and lightning explodes in the sky at 4 p.m. some afternoon, I'm not going to wonder about the severity of the storm, but more about who is winning that daily cribbage match -- Laura or Harold.

Paul Neumeyer is sports editor for The Saginaw News. You may reach him at 776-9770 or pneumeyer@thesaginawnews.com A memorial service for Harold is scheduled for 11 a.m. on Tuesday at Merrill Congregational Church, 245 S. Midland Road.

Original article here.

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