It was the first time I’d ever sung “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” at a funeral.
And it was fitting for the crowd in Thomas Road Baptist Church to do that as they said goodbye to W. Calvin Falwell. He was the immediate past-president of the Lynchburg Baseball Corp., and widely acknowledged as the man who saved baseball in the Hill City.
It was also fitting that when Calvin, who was 90, had a “spell” just before he had a final heart attack Aug. 20, he was in the car on his way to see the Lynchburg Hillcats baseball team play.
Watching the Hillcats play their final game of this season on Labor Day at Calvin Falwell Field at Lynchburg City Stadium just didn’t seem right, knowing that Calvin wasn’t up in the family sky box. Doris, his widow, was there, along with son Terry and other family members.
I’m sure Calvin knew and was cheering right along with the more-than 1,200 fans on Labor Day when Hillcats player Joey Terdoslavich smacked his 52nd double, breaking a Carolina League record that had stood for 65 years. That’s right, since 1946.
The Hillcats went on to win their final game, beating the Winston-Salem Dash 4-3, just before the rain started coming down hard.
My husband, Bill, and I have known Calvin and Doris Falwell since about 1973, shortly after we moved to the Lynchburg area. I don’t remember when I met Calvin. He was always there, sitting on the end of that first row on the third base side in those days. Later he and Doris moved up into the grandstand, where she didn’t have to hold a porch cushion over her head as protection from foul balls.
In my memory, Calvin always wore dress pants, a white dress shirt and a tie, even at baseball games. One of the first things Calvin would do when he got to their seats was plug in a portable phone. That was before the days of widely available cell phones. If that phone rang, it usually meant someone’s life was at stake.
The call would be from somebody at Falwell Airport, saying there was a heart or other organ that needed to be flown somewhere for a transplant recipient.
A few weeks ago, Bill and I went up to Calvin and Doris’ box to see them. His mind had been somewhere else for awhile, but he was always happy to see visitors, and he was always a gentleman. “Honey, don’t you want to take that chair over there? It’s comfortable,” after I gave him a kiss on the cheek.
Doris told me Calvin had given her a scare a few weeks before, when he had gotten up while the family and caregiver thought he was napping, used his walker to get quietly out of the house, and drove to his office a couple of miles away, “because he had dreamed I was in trouble and needed him,” she said.
In order to do what is easy for most of us, he had to find a screwdriver, unscrew the back license plate, get the key out of the magnetic key box, then put the screws back in. Of course, the family removed all the hidden keys later.
At the time Doris told me about Calvin’s trip, I thought, “That was Calvin’s last, great adventure.” It was, as usual, something he did for the love of Doris, with whom he celebrated their 69th wedding anniversary two days before he died. There was a love story we can all cherish.