I was saddened to see a news story online Tuesday at Daily-Chronicle.com about the passing of Robert Brigham on Sunday. I was doubly saddened Wednesday morning when I looked for his obit and saw below it one for Richard “Daddio” Dailey, who died that same Sunday.
In the DeKalb I grew up and lived in, these men were larger-than-life giants.
I became aware of Doc Brigham when I attended junior high at the so-called Lab School with his son, Bobby.
When I was in high school, I worked for Daddio busing tables and washing dishes at Kishwaukee Country Club.
There are a million stories about Daddio. They’re the stuff of legend. I’ll share just one. A woman diner complained about having money stolen, and Daddio knew just where to look. Unlit cigar stub stuck in the corner of his mouth, he marched a protesting employee outside to the front porch, and when the suspect feigned innocence, held him over the railing by his ankles and shook him until the money started falling from his pockets. Daddio returned the shamed thief to his feet unhurt and fired him on the spot.
Later I drank at Daddio’s bar. Even later, I’d see him working in the gear locker at Evans Field House. “Billy, Billy, Billy. How ya doin’?” he’d rattle off in a machine gun-like burst that was his style. The air around him simply crackled with excitement.
It was one of life’s pleasures to count these men as friends.
I don’t recall the occasion, but I once was at a Northern Illinois University news conference atop Holmes Student Center that drew all of the Chicago TV bigshots, as well as the usual cast of area scribes and hacks. When Brigham entered the room, he greeted the Chicago guys with nods and hellos. But when he came to me, he greeted me by name, shook my hand and asked how I’d been. It made me feel like a million bucks. As Brigham continued to work his way to the podium, I spied envy in the eyes of the big shots who were wondering just who in the world I was.
When we moved to DeKalb in the mid-1960s, one of the first places my dad took me was to an NIU football game. Glidden Field, where Northern had played forever, was a wooden-bleacher affair that stood where the Art Building is today. Brigham Field at Huskie Stadium was only beginning on a farm field where Jesse Glidden once told me she had plowed behind a mule as a youngster.
Bob Brigham led the change of all that. More than anyone, his efforts and dedication put NIU on the athletic map.
Bob was born in 1924. Daddio in 1933. My dad in 1929. I knew my father had been a Marine, but until I read their obits I didn’t know that Daddio had been in the 82nd Airborne or that Bob had served on the submarine USS Wahoo. That’s pretty big-time stuff. These were strong, tough men from the Depression era.
Still, at times Bob and Daddio seemed as much like a father to me as my own dad was.
Behind them all, as is often the case, was a good woman, too.
Patti, Gert and Bobby, and all family members, you have my deepest sympathies. These were great men.
• Bill Wesselhoff worked for the Daily Chronicle from 1982 to 1997 as Sycamore beat reporter, assistant sports editor and sports editor. He is now editor of The Periscope in Kings Bay, Georgia.