“I was fortunate to get to come back home and find a job at Austal that utilizes my skills from 22 years in the Navy. I love Mobile more because I left it. All of those years, I was longing to come back. You don’t realize how much you love something until you lose it. I am sorry I am getting choked up but my wife, Leslie, passed away from cancer this past week. We were married for 28 years and ‘I love you’ is the last thing I said to her. My only consolation is she is no longer in pain. The last year and a half has been so hard and she struggled for over a year. One of the reasons I kick this ball around is to relieve stress and it helps me take my mind off my troubles because if I completely focus on this ball, I can’t think of anything else. If I am not focusing on this ball 100 percent, the ball drops. Kicking a ball is better than drinking and keeps me fit.
While I was in the Navy, I moved 15 times, lived in 9 states and on all three coasts and went on every continent except Antartica. Our friends from all of our travels came here to see Leslie during her last days and are staying through the memorial service. Now I get to show them what she loved, which is Mardi Gras. She loved it so much she was a docent at the Carnival Museum. Our house is filled with books about Mardi Gras and she has read them all. My great-great aunt was the first Mardi Gras Queen in Mobile and my family has been here continuously since 1852. I have been all over the country and every place I lived I loved, but I didn’t love them as much as Mobile. For 22 years, Leslie and I counted the days until we could come back. Another reason I kick this ball downtown is I love to see the life that happens here and I am trying to add a little to that life. I hope a guy juggling a ball on a sidewalk is more interesting than an empty sidewalk. I participate in charity runs that allow balls. 5Ks are a challenge. It is a good way to stay in shape, too.
Being the birthplace of Mardi Gras makes Mobile special. I have gone on recruiting trips where they had no interest in Mobile until I told them about Mardi Gras, then they signed the job application. That is our ace up the sleeve and it works. Mardi Gras in itself is fun, but it is great when you are doing it with your friends and family. If you are doing it by yourself, you are doing it wrong. Mardi Gras is the reason but friends and family getting together with your community is the magic. Mobile is a magic place and it is going to be tough to be here without Leslie, but I am so glad we came back home.”