Sometimes a bond formed early in life ends quickly and unexpectedly.
Sometimes a bond formed early in life ends quickly and unexpectedly. So it was with an unforgettable collegiate pal, a man of great girth and mirth, who left us far too soon.
He was an overgrown Spanky, who led a gang of Miami University rascals before his tragic death in a traffic accident two months before graduation in 1974. Now, some 50 years later, his memory remains a touchstone for all who knew the chubby one we called “Spa.” His nickname was a handpicked acronym of “Spensley, Patrick Allen.”
We who were lucky enough to be with this charismatic fellow rarely discuss our college days without sharing tales of Spa and the joy he brought to our lives. Throughout freshman year, 1970-71, his room was our lounge. He had a portable color TV perched on a trunk—our entertainment center. We didn’t just hang out. We argued over sports (Ohio State vs. his beloved Michigan), music (Grand Funk Railroad or the Moody Blues) and politics (Spa was our resident Archie Bunker). We enjoyed card games (hearts, euchre, poker), monopoly tournaments, Frisbee matches in the hall and all sorts of improvised ball games. At almost any hour, laughter would erupt from Spa’s cramped dorm room, his trademark high-pitched chuckle resonating off those bland cinderblock walls.
An auburn-haired, freckle-faced Irishman of ample heft, Spa was surprisingly athletic. He played on intramural football, basketball and volleyball teams for Stanton Hall and Logan Lodge. He also played golf at nearby Hueston Woods (after cutting classes, of course).
But his time at the university was more than fun and frolic, and he had his share of sadness and loss. He was no mere Falstaff. Friends consulted him regularly for advice, and he encouraged and led us on the road to adulthood.
It is a rare person who still touches so many other lives decades later. As the famed Irish poet W.B. Yeats once wrote: “My glory was I had such friends.”
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