As I was walking into the North County Regional Park sports complex to watch Iowa take on St. Bonaventure, I saw a couple of Iowa fans and I yelled, “Go Big Ten!” They looked at me and smiled in that comforting and approachable way, I immediately asked how Iowa did in basketball, I was hoping they said that they lost since they were taking on my Wisconsin Badgers, “They lost!” he said and shook his head, I, of course, said “Go Badgers”, they looked at me and laughed and I explained who I was and what I was doing. John and Donna Negro are from Cedar Rapids, Iowa according to John, Donna said no, Marion, John didn’t correct her. They were at the game to meet up with their friends Ron and Karen Foster and to cheer on and support the Hawkeyes.
You could tell immediately that the Negros and Fosters had been friends for a long time, 40 years John stated, there was a lot of laughing and joking and a real sense of ease with each other. John, 65, is an electrical contractor and owns Nelson Electric back in Cedar Rapids, he bought it from a guy named Nelson in 1977; thought it best to keep the name, as not to confuse people. Ron is an electrical engineer and designed a lot of projects that John “had” to make work, he said with a chuckle. When I inquired about baseball, John was quick to point out that he played softball from age 20 to 45, “…it was a great excuse to drink beer”, he said with a laugh, Donna quickly added that it was a family affair, stating that her 2 oldest sons were born on Wednesdays and were at the ballpark the following Monday. Donna says that they basically raised their 7 kids at the ball diamond,(yes they are Catholic), Becky, Barb, Joe, Beth, Mike, Brenda and Jim along with 11 grandkids which she said she hoped I didn’t ask to name.. Karen Foster was a Nurse in the Obstetrics Department and was working when Donna gave birth to 3 of her kids, there was some chuckling and nudging about her having to kick John out one time but I think it was an inside joke, but I couldn’t help but laugh along with these 4.
John and Donna made sure that all their kids were involved with some kind of extra curricular activities during the school year be it sports or music, didn’t matter what it was as long as they were out of the house; Donna needed a break she said jokingly, there was always something going on with the 7 kids and John would call after work and just say, “Who do I pick up and where do I take them?” he said in way that you knew that he would do it all over again if given the chance.
When John retired to South Florida at the urging of the Fosters his passion for softball was reignited and he joined a 60+ softball league, to his surprise they played games in the morning, so the beer drinking would have to wait until the afternoon when Ron and John play golf. John plays for End Zone, a bar I am guessing; Ron plays for Beyond the Sea, yep a restaurant. I was confused why they didn’t play on the same team, more laughter and then John looks at me seriously and says that there is a draft, he looks at Ron again and they chuckle. The league consists of 10 teams each with 14 players, 11 players play, 5 infielders, 4 outfielders, a pitcher and a catcher. They do it this way John says so you don’t have to move too fast he adds with a smile, Ron points out that there are a few players that get a bit competitive and need to simmer down, they do play to win but as John says it really is to just have some fun. However, some of the players are not very good and both John and Ron laugh pretty hard when they try to suggest that they move on to the 70+ league, they laugh harder when it is suggested that those guys probably wouldn’t want them…
John is an avid Chicago Cubs fan, his brother is a Chicago White Sox fan, they have a standing bet whichever team has the worst record that brother has to buy dinner, John of course smiles and says he has been buying a lot of dinners. John and Donna love going to Chicago and try to make it to Wrigley a couple times a year, it is ideal when the Iowa Hawkeye football team plays the Northwestern Wildcats in the fall, that way they can catch the Hawkeyes on a Saturday and head to Wrigley Field on Sunday. He has had season tickets for Iowa basketball and football for years, and quickly makes sure to add that he attends Iowa wrestling matches, a perennial powerhouse because of their legendary coach Dan Gable who won 16 NCAA team titles from 1976–1997.
When John was a kid his dad took him and 2 brothers along with a family friend and his son on a baseball road trip to Chicago to watch the White Sox at Comiskey Park on Friday night, the Cubs at Wrigley Field on Saturday, then they camped along Lake Michigan and went to a Milwaukee Braves game at County Stadium on Sunday. As John recalls it, they got to watch Warren Spahn of the Braves pitch; what was funny to him was that Spahn participated in a cow milking contest before the game, what a great childhood memory to have! I had a good time laughing along with John, Donna and their friends the Fosters as we watched Iowa defeat St. Bonaventure 2-0. I loved their sense of humor, it is a sign of a life well lived and I wish everyone the happiness I felt and saw with them.
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To learn more about Dan Gable and what he accomplished at Iowa click here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dan_Gable.
Warren Spahn cow milking contest: http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1499&dat=19560605&id=6elQAAAAIBAJ&sjid=bCUEAAAAIBAJ&pg=4462,3122533.