Do you remember that beer commercial that unveiled “the most interesting man in the world”?
I thought the bearded, suave guy looked more like some villain from a James Bond movie. But I guess they made his lifestyle and talents (parallel parking a train, etc.) look “interesting” even if he did drink beer instead of a “martini, shaken not stirred.”
Of course, the guy was just an actor, his character a figment of the imagination of some advertising whiz.
In real life, I’m not sure I’ve ever met a guy who could qualify for such a title. Yet I do know someone who might qualify as “the most interesting young man in South Bend under 21.”
He is Dion Payne-Miller, a John Adams High School graduate and a sophomore at Holy Cross College. I’ve written about him before — once about the time I was taking him home and a mouse scampered out from my car’s innards.
Dion quickly moved to the backseat while I “chauffeured” him home. I told him he should watch the movie “Green Card.” If you’ve seen the movie, you know what I’m talking about.
But I digress. I don’t know anybody who juggles more activities and responsibilities with flair than Dion. Not only is he a student at Holy Cross in a program that should eventually land him at the University of Notre Dame for graduate work, Dion is the HCC student body president.
He also has been one of the best table tennis players in the Midwest and recently replaced his mentor, former national champion Dan Seemiller, as the head coach of the South Bend Table Tennis Club.
Dion is also one of Chad Johnston’s assistants for the Adams boys basketball team. As a student at Adams, he helped with the program with the goal of someday being a coach. He sat on the end of bench during games and often gave the team prayer.
He also has been elected a South Bend precinct committeeman for elections and is very active in the St. Joseph County Chapter of Faith in Indiana.
“I’m staying pretty busy these days,” Dion admits.
He says he might want to be a psychiatrist or a public servant. I think he might end up becoming President.
I just hope I’m still around to vote for him — and to maybe see if he becomes “the most interesting man in the world.”
I remember Nick Belton when he was even younger than Dion is now. Nick was a Clay High School student and would catch a ride with my wife and younger son to Clay in the morning. My wife would then continue on to Eggleston Elementary where she taught.
Nick often was running a little late, coming around the corner on the run and out of breath. He was a great kid who ran cross country with my son and was in the drama club at Clay.
I always hoped he was a better actor than he was a runner (although he wasn’t that bad).
He apparently was.
Last Sunday, we watched in awe as Nick, now a Broadway regular, returned to his hometown in the lead male role of “West Side Story” at the Morris Performing Arts Center. He knocked it out of the park as the starstruck Tony and I had goosebumps when he sang “Maria” and “Tonight.”
When you haven’t seen someone for more than 20 years, you still kind of visualize them how they looked when they were a neighborhood kid. I still recognized Nick but he looked every bit the part of a handsome leading man — in character, in shape and in command.
Even so, I still thought I glimpsed a little bit of that goofy, likable kid hustling around the corner on the Morris stage. And I had to smile.
We lost two people on our street over the last couple of weeks. Ed Wray was 83 and Wayne Andrews was 95. I liked both of them very much and will miss their affable ways.
I met Ed when I was a young Tribune sports writer and he was keeping the scorebook at St. Joe High school basketball games. A successful businessman, he loved his sports and even served a stint as the president of the Notre Dame Quarterback Club.
He and former high school football coach Neil McLaughlin, who lived across the street from Ed, would often be in a lively conversation out on the curb when I would drive by. If I had time, I would join them for a little while — although I didn’t have the knowledge or vocal stamina to stay up with them for long.
Wayne, who started his career at Blume Pharmacy and married the owner’s daughter, was a World War II veteran — one of the last I’ve had the privilege to know. He and his late wife Janice loved their Boston terriers, including their last one, Houdini, who didn’t like me much.
But Wayne liked me and we would talk while he did his short walk in the neighborhood — even earlier this year at his advancing age. We mostly talked about the weather and regardless of the temperature, our conversations were always warm.
These were good men — Wayne and Ed. Our neighborhood won’t be quite the same without them.