After further review…Trading in his glove for a cassock!” Occasionally the TUNNEYSIDE is privileged to digress, ever so slightly, from the traditional sports story to pay tribute to a person who made a difference in the lives of others. Today’s tribute recognizes a man who played an important part in my life: Father Robert William Hunt, O.P.B., a Roman Catholic priest who was part of my life for the last 35 years. He died of natural causes April 30, 2017. While we are saddened by his departure, the sadness is for us, not him. In his last hours, he said to me, “It is time for me to be with my Father.” He served his Lord for over six decades.
His sports connection was in his early days as a seminarian at St. Joseph’s College in Rensselaer, Indiana. He was a catcher on the seminary’s baseball T*E*A*M. He was so good that the St. Joseph’s baseball coach wanted him to play for the regular college baseball squad full-time. However, the seminary’s rector would not allow it, reasoning that doing so would take away from his preparation for the priesthood.
When his priestly duties assigned him to St. Mary’s Parish in Alexandria, Virginia, he formed a parish baseball team, where he played shortstop and was the team’s star. On game nights, while keeping his assigned counseling appointments, he would wear his baseball uniform underneath his cassock so he could quickly change from counselor to shortstop. I would often kid him that the shortstop position was aptly named for him. He was 5’9”!
Fr. Bob and I met as fellow professional speakers at the National Speakers Association conventions held annually. During these gatherings, he volunteered his priestly duties to say the Catholic mass each Sunday morning. At first, it was only Catholics who would attend, but his homilies were so chock-full of non-denominational messages and universal humor that many others would pack the room. He had an Irish wit that at times resembled the side-splitting attacks of the late Don Rickles, but he always employed it in fun.
His homilies led to counseling other speakers who needed advice in their personal and professionally lives. Fr. Bob never charged a penny for his valuable wisdom. Further, he wasn’t just an NSA member, but took time earn his CSP designation (Certified Speaking Professional). Later he was inducted into the Veteran Speakers Retreat (VSR), an organization honoring the legends of the speaking profession. He traveled the country with his “Mission for Today: A message of love, life and hope!”
Will you give of your time to help others as did Fr. Bob?
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