C. Don Weston Eulogy
There is an old Mark Twain quote that goes---“Let us endeavor so to live that when we come to die even the undertaker will be sorry”----That quote has never been more true than today.
This past week the world lost a Husband, a Father, a Grandfather, a Brother, and a Dear Friend---and Macomb lost a True Treasure. C. Don Weston was an iconic presence in this town. Always out and about at a game, banquet, or event. There are some folks you meet in life that are just good people. He was one of those guys. He represents a great era that is fading away from us far too quickly. An old school guy whose life bridged over four generations.
When you think about the span of his lifetime and think about what he lived though and what he saw from a historical standpoint it makes you stop and think. He was born in February of 1933 which was the worst year of the depression, when unemployment was at all time high of 25%. The Dow Jones is over 20,000 as we sit here today. He lived through fourteen Presidents. Coincidentally, the other big historical event ushered in the year of his birth was the repeal of prohibition. He always got a chuckle out of that fact.
Much of the time when people leave us from this earth they are remembered for a list of accomplishments---often fashioned into a 500 word newspaper column that is soon forgotten. Although C.Don loved lists (and many in this room made lots of lists with him) and though he was a very accomplished man--- he was so much more than that.
He was a graduate of Knox College in Political Science--- then went onto graduate from one the most prestigious Law Schools in the country at Georgetown in Washington D.C. He served his country honorably in the Army for two years. He was a married for over 50 years and had four children, four grandchildren and two great grandchildren. He was a member of the Illinois Bar for over 50 years and was also once a member of the bar in Washington DC. He prosecuted one of the first “Battered Child”cases in the Western Illinois region. He also twice argued before the Illinois Supreme Court. Accomplished Man Indeed----but that doesn’t begin to define him as a person.
He was an Octogenarian with a kids heart (minus the pace maker). He could visit with a table of people his own age or be perfectly fine sitting and talking with kids 40 or 50 years his junior. That is an adjustment one is faced with when they begin to outlive their contemporaries----and yet he made that adjustment fairly easily. He could connect with anyone. I have sat with him at Baseball Stadiums, Basketball Gymnasiums, Breakfast Tables and Bar Stools and he was as good as anyone in the world you know to have a conversation with----He had a gifted mind and was knowledgeable on an unlimited amount of topics---not the least of which was Macomb history---of which he had probably forgotten more than the rest of us could ever hope to know. He was also not afraid to give you his “reaction” to any of those topics when given the opportunity.
He had a great old soul and a tremendous spirit. Despite being unbelievably intelligent, he was uncomplicated and enjoyed his routines. He was self-aware and knew his limitations and faults. C.Don was a humble guy even though he had tons to be proud of---He loved his family. Marg, if I had a nickel for every time he said there was a “Special Place in Heaven” for you I would be on a sunny beach somewhere today drinking one of those little boat drinks with the umbrellas in them. He loved you and knew how patient you were with him.
C.Don had an appetite for life and embraced living it each and every day. In fact, he worked right up until his very last one----just as he had always intended. Retirement wasn’t in his vocabulary. Those that knew him well knew that He loved good food, good bourbon, good beer, and sports (not necessarily in that order). It is also a little known fact that he held down two additional jobs other than his full time daily occupation of lawyer. He also happen to be the “Night Time Athletic Director” for Western Illinois University, and in the summer he was the “Self-appointed General Manager for the St. Louis Cardinals”. He cared deeply about both, and graciously never took a pay check for either.
I know that he very much approved, and was very happy this past week when Women’s Basketball Coach JD Gravian’s contract got extended. C.Don knew the depth chart for WIU Football so well I think he could have worked for our Sports Information Department. He was an avid Leatherneck Club as well as Downtown Athletic Club member and the question I got from him most often over the entirety of our relationship (and there wasn’t a close second to this) was “What is the word out of Western Hall?” He loved being in the know about WIU Athletics.
Our Coaches will never know how happy it made him when they would take some time during lunch or after a game to bring him up to date on the latest goings on with the team, whether it was recruiting or breaking down the game and just talking strategy. It made his day. He particularly loved Football because it had tailgate, which brought all his guilty pleasures together in one place, including his love for food, spirits, and sports. He had a ritual of coming up each game and asking to borrow someone’s cooler space. He would bring exactly three beers in a plastic bag and just wanted a place to store them. Many of us will miss that routine this fall.
C.Don was a guy that liked to wear sweaters during the winter months and he had three he wore the most. A forest green one, a burgundy one, and a bright red one. One night about a year ago at a basketball game he wore the bright red one. Vice-President for Development, Brad Bainter, who has known C.Don for years couldn’t handle it anymore because it reminded him too much of Illinois State’s colors. So the next week he brought one of the new “Rock Hanson” collection vintage sweaters to his office and said if he burned that red one he could have this purple WIU vintage sweater. C.Don is pictured in that sweater on the program today (He was watching the Women’s Basketball team bring home the Summit League Championship at a Leatherneck Club watch party at the Sports Corner at the time it was taken). I don’t think anyone ever wore it better than him. He was the best bill board model we could have asked for in the Bookstore ---sales in the over 60 demographic sky rocketed after Brad gave him that sweater.
If you ever needed a recommendation for a restaurant---particularly a steak house in Chicago---he was your guy. You just needed to tell him what side dishes you preferred for him to make the proper choice. However you had to go to the Berghoff for lunch---that wasn’t a debatable point. He was the long time treasurer of Bulls and Bears Investment Club and he made it clear to me when I first became President that when it came to restaurant selection for the annual Spring trip to Chicago that he would be guiding that process and he would be as absolutely “Arbitrary and Capricious” as he wanted to be in that decision making. I always remember that phrase because I went home and wrote it down. I thought that it was a funny way to think about picking out a restaurant. He never disappointed with his picks though.
C.Don had nearly perfect attendance once the Sports Corner started bringing in Oysters on the half shell each month---it got to so where Danny would just call him the day before to see how many he wanted saved back to make sure he didn’t miss out. I once ask him what the secret to him living so long was and he said----“Well that easy-----I eat three square meals a day even if they are five minutes apart” and I have no doubt that he believed that with all his heart. The man loved good food.
Golf was also an important part of C.Don’s life. However, if you ever golfed with him you know that he golfed a lot like he talked---which is to say----not in a hurry. The man was always very deliberate in his delivey whether in a conversation or on a tee-box. So one day I am in a foursome with him and he is taking a long time to look for a ball he sliced out of bounds. If you have ever golfed with him you know that C.Don was never a guy to give up on a good golf ball. After a little while one of the guys in our group says----“I will buy you a box of balls if you just stop looking”---C.Don turns around with that little grin only he can get and says---"If you make it a box of Pro V 1’s you have a deal”.
He had the opportunity to got to Scotland and play many of the old courses including Carnoustie and Gleneagles. Remember in Scotland they don’t do carts at these courses so you have to walk. I ask him how it was and he remarked that -"It was tremendous, but I am never going back to that course that I had to walk uphill 16 holes and down two”. On that same trip after one a full day on the course they made their way back to the restaurant at the St.Joseph Hotel and C.Don decided to treat himself and his buddies to a round of authentic single malt scotch. Fifteen years ago it was about $56 for four glasses. He ordered it “neat” which is the traditional way to drink it there. Two of the guys (who shall remain nameless) mistook it for a shot and drank it in one fell swoop instead of sipping it how it was intended. The blood run out of C.Don’s face. I am told it is one of the few documented times outside of yelling at referees that he was demonstrably frustrated. An unforgivable act of etiquette. One that brings many laughs 15 years later. I would have paid to see the look on his face.
It is my belief that there is a “Big Sports Bar in the Sky” and that in anticipation of his arrival last Friday they stalked up on Bourbon and Berghoff. I believe he has found his chair there and has been catching up with old friends and making new ones while holding court on all the topics he held dear. I would also like to think that God rained out yesterday’s Cubs v. Cardinal’s game as a tip of the cap to C.Don’s love for the Redbirds so it would be held at the same time as this service. My hope is he is also watching the Master’s golf tournament with his old buddy Jim Gardner right now.
I do think C.Don is also still arguing cases this week. I have no doubt that one of the first things he did when he arrived Friday was to demand an audience with God in order to persuade him on a few grievances he has been carrying around all these years, which include but are not limited to, the firing of the Cardinal Manager Mike Matheny and the years of poor officiating in Western Hall. We can all only hope he is as good a lawyer upstairs as he was here.
If his passing has taught us anything--- it is the life is precious and can change very suddenly. In that vein I encourage folks to go home after this and let those that matter most to you know that you love them. Then share a C.Don story (and everyone has one), have a laugh or two, and raise a glass to toast a true Macomb Treasure. He was One of Kind. He was very loved and he will be very missed.