Longtime Mercury Sports Editor Don Seeley died Wednesday morning while doing what he loved — playing golf.
He was 62 years old.
According to friends who were with him, Seeley took ill at Lederach Golf Club and was taken by ambulance to Grand View Hospital in Sellersville.
Seeley retired as The Mercury’s sports editor in February, a post he held for 15 years. He continued to write for The Mercury, his byline appearing in Wednesday’s edition after covering the inaugural PAC-10 Senior Bowl boys lacrosse game Tuesday night.
For more than 32 years, Seeley’s coverage and perspectives on everything from wrestling to football to baseball (American Legion and otherwise) filled the pages of The Mercury.
His stories were clipped from the paper by proud parents and framed, or glued into scrapbooks while delighting, informing, inspiring and, in some cases, infuriating sports fans throughout The Mercury’s coverage area.
A native of Spring City, news of Seeley’s passing spread quickly throughout the community to which he devoted so much of his life.
Tributes and condolences crowded his recently-established Facebook page — as well as the Facebook and Twitter pages operated by The Mercury — as athletes, former athletes, sports writers, coaches and parents offered prayers and exchanged memories of a person who, most would agree, was hard to forget.
“He was definitely a larger than life personality,” said Mercury Editor Nancy March who, in 1998, convinced Seeley to take the sports editor’s post.
“In many ways, his words defined the identity of The Mercury’s local sports coverage for the past three decades,” said March.
“No one else could match the breadth of his knowledge about high school football or wrestling, but it wasn’t just his knowledge. His gift for storytelling and detail framed his trademark style for writing about local athletes. There are more athletes than we can count who were lucky enough to have had Don tell their story.”
In April Seeley was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame’s Pennsylvania Chapter.
He was unique among its membership, never having wrestled or coached the sport, but the impact of his writing was appreciated nonetheless.
“Don doesn’t just promote wrestling, he makes it matter,” Upper Perkiomen High School coach Tom Hontz said at the time of Seeley’s induction. “His knowledge and passion for the sport is second to none, and there isn’t a single kid he’s covered that didn’t appreciate the kind of coverage Don gives our sport.”
Additionally, Seeley was in the inaugural class of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Wrestling Hall of Fame and was named the Pennsylvania Wrestling Writer of the Year.
Over the course of Seeley’s illustrious career, he’s been the recipient of more than 30 journalism awards, most proudly as the Pennsylvania Special Olympics Writer of the Year.
But while the awards were nice, they were not what motivated Seeley.
He was a champion for youth athletes and recognized by many for the fairness of the coverage he provided personally and oversaw as sports editor.
And although Seeley often liked to joke, both in person and in his column, about his failing memory, so much of his writing and conversation started with the phrase: “I remember...”
In fact, in his final column as Mercury sports editor, published in March, Seeley reflected back on his career and, in addition to reliving dozens and dozens of memories, was quick to give credit for his success to most everyone else:
“A big thank-you Jack Jeffers, the sports editor at the former Daily Republican in Phoenixville who talked me into covering a high school football game four months after I got out of college with a business degree in 1970. There’s no problem remembering who truly whet my appetite to keep writing – a big thank you to Walt Kalil, who gave me the opportunity to write what I could when I could as a correspondent for the former Weekly Advertiser (and paid me a whopping five or so dollars a story) throughout the 70s. There’s no problem remembering who offered me half the money I was making to take my first full-time job in the newspaper business – a big thank you to Rich Roesler and Gene Dinnocenti, who bit hook, line and sinker on my babbling interview and hired me as the editor of The Reporter in 1980 (and introduced me to former editor Shirley Elliott, the queen who guided me through the transition),” he wrote.
That was also the year Seeley began work at The Mercury. Over the next 30-plus years, his impact was felt internally, as well as in the pages of the newspaper.
A boisterous and outspoken person, there was never any doubt about when Seeley was or wasn’t in the newsroom. His exploits were the stuff of Mercury legend.
But although Seeley loved to joke, it was no laughing matter when, in 2005, he was diagnosed with stage 4 neck cancer.
“The next eight months were emotionally difficult for all who knew him. The aggressive treatments nearly killed him, more than once. Radiation robbed him of his voice and his ability to swallow,” March wrote in a March 14 column about his retirement.
But he beat the cancer, and in 2010 was named the co-grand marshal of the Pottstown Relay for Life.
In 2011 he spoke at the Boyertown Relay for Life Survivors Ceremony and in that speech, he talked about how he got the news about his cancer four hours after getting the call that his sister had just died from the same disease.
“The treatments did get the best of me physically. Thanks to the chemo, nearly everything I put through my feeding tube came back up; thanks to the radiation frying my throat and burning up my salivary glands, I couldn’t even take a sip of water,” Seeley wrote.
“I lost 79 pounds.
“Then, thanks to surgery, I lost a jugular vein and most of the muscle mass in the right side of my neck.
“The chemo and radiation, all those pills, the surgery … all of it, sure did get the best of me physically. I was a mere shadow of myself.
“But cancer did not get the best of me mentally. Cancer did not come close to touching my heart and my soul, thanks to my family and my friends,” wrote Seeley.
He is survived by his wife Kathy, daughters Allison and Brenda and his beloved grandson Dane.
Funeral arrangements have not yet been announced.
Read memories of Don Seeley and share your own at http://rememberingdonseeley.blogspot.com/