Many of you who knew me during my years at good ole' Testicle Tech (David Letterman's alma mater) knew that I tended to be a social fella, and enjoyed the fruits of being dropped into the midst of 20,000 strangers in a state I had only visited once previously in my life. Like many adventures before and after, I have always enjoyed the 'starting anew' and building a new life from nothingness, or possibly this is a bit of my Mother's Western Montana rooted restlessness that made its way through the DNA mixture.
So, as can be imagined, I had a good time - a REALLY good time at Ball State, and will always love my experiences I had, the friends I made, the illegal (but unspoken) activities that involved mountain climbing on unfinished large structures, turning over porta-potties, and the occasional (illeged) runs through the steam tunnels - all of which, you can guess, were fueled by earlier evening festivities at one RKE house on Ball Avenue (thanks Ries, Niel, Ski, and East). I embraced the love of my newly found vocation (Architecture), kissed a few girls, "borrowed' a university car for several weeks, ran a series of illegal social events under 'official' University jurisdiction, and generally had a heck of a good time.
But, the most important moment in my time at BSU happened one late night in studio during my 4th year, as I was working on some forgotten project where my desk was propped in front of the doors to the hallway. In the class ahead of us (a great group of folks), there was this great larger-than-life italian guy from South Bend, Tony Gianesi, and while we weren't close friends, we partied and hung out from time to time. Tony was boistrious, funny, and didn't take sh*t from anyone - not to be stereotypical, but a good Italian boy.
So the rumor buzz as of late around the College of Architecture & Planning (some 400 strong amongst 20k crazy Cardinals) was that I was dating the elusive Amanda Dawn Fritz, and that the word on the street was that she was being a bit elusive and frustrating for her pursuer (that's me). Tony walked up to my studio desk and asked how things were going with Amanda, and I remember saying "You know Tony, I'm going to Europe soon, graduating next year, and frankly I'm not in the mood for head games. I think I'm just gonna end this thing and move on to the future." To quote Tony "Bill, you two make a great couple, and I think it would be a mistake for you to stop chasing her. In the words of Jimmy Valvano, the coach of NC State 'DON'T GIVE UP, DON'T EVER GIVE UP."
Well folks, those of you who know what happened from that point on know that I didn't give up, and married the love of my life, Amanda Dawn Baker (Ha-she dropped the Fritz!). Tony wasn't able to make our wedding the following summer, but we did have a toast in his name to "never give up" all 250 strong of us in the basement of the Old Mill Restaurant in Evansville. As all of you here in Denver can see, Amanda has been my rock during this face-down with the big C, and I couldn't be here without her love and support.
So why the story about Tony Gianesi? We really haven't been in contact over these past 14 years except through the college -classmate grapevine. But I was touched last week to get a facebook friend invite from Tony, and accepted. He soon after sent me the following inbox message which I'd like to share with all of you:
The only thing that comes to mind after looking at your pictures is something I believe I said to you some 15 years ago. My memory may be blurred and my mind is certainly going with three daughters but I believe I quoted a rather famous basketball coach and said, "Don't give up, don't ever give up."Though that quote was not meant for your current struggle, 15 years later it appears to hold true more than ever.
My wife and I wish you only the best having faced our own struggles with cancer with our parents and her aunt. Please stay in touch and keep me in mind as you fight on as we will you and Amanda.
Tony and Kerry Gianesi"
Thanks Tony, and a MILLION THANK YOUS to all of you who send me kind words, notes, phone calls, cards, prayers, emails, and a simple 'how you feeling today' at the office. I am blessed beyond recognition.
2 1/2 weeks to Round #3. Team Baker on the attack.