When we came home from my in-laws on Christmas Day last year, there was a Brooks Robinson autographed baseball in a plastic case sitting on my porch.
No card and no message. Just the baseball in its plastic case.
My grandson, who was born in April 2017, is named Brooks Wyatt. His mother and father named him after Brooks Robinson, the Hall of Fame third baseman for the Baltimore Orioles.
Even though this gift didn’t have a tag on it, the fingerprints were obvious to us.
We knew it was Don Frailie. That was just his style of doing things. I never found out for sure, because he’d never admit to it if asked, but I knew.
On Wednesday night around 11:30, Kentucky became a sadder place because Don Frailie’s big heart stopped beating. What a sad, sad day.
Don’s passing hurts anyone who ever met this kind and caring man and many of you who never even knew him but were probably impacted. His life was always about helping others and never shining the light on himself.
I count myself incredibly blessed to have known him, to witness the light inside him that came bursting out when he saw a need, to watch him be that silent helping hand. He was the humblest man you’d ever meet.
Counting Don Frailie as a friend made you warm inside. I wish everyone could have experienced it. Maybe that’s why his death hurts so much.
In a lot of instances, he was your friend and you may never have known it. That’s how Don Frailie rolled in life, a trail of pure goodness sprinkled behind him. With his country ways, he could have easily been a character on “The Andy Griffith Show,” but there was no acting with him. He was genuine, a true friend and a giant in his hometown of Ashland.
He was an attorney and a teacher and brilliant in both professions and even coached some of Ashland’s greatest athletes during a stint at Coles Jr. High. He was a husband and a father and he loved his late wife Karen and his daughter Mary Beth more than anything this world had to offer.
Behind them, the man adored baseball. He was a walking baseball encyclopedia. Don was Google for baseball before there was Google. He loved his Braves, Milwaukee and Atlanta, and when he was a little guy playing in the first year of Little League in Ashland, Don played first base for the Giants. He rolled up his sleeves like Ted Kluszewski, the muscular first baseman for the Reds who liked to show off his biceps.
Don was always that behind-the-scenes person who made sure things got done but never wanted any credit for it.
His wife Karen was one of the best English teachers that Ashland and Rose Hill ever witnessed. She was the epitome of perfect grammar and a beautiful individual. When she lost her life to cancer, a piece of Don went with her. He was devastated as any of us would be. He visited her grave at the Ashland Cemetery every day where he told her about what was going on in his life. He never stopped loving her with all his being.
Don immediately began a trust, the Karen Frailie Christian Education Fund, that provided teachers with the tools they needed. Each teacher at Rose Hill Christian School had $300 to spend on their class each year. And, by the way, if they needed more, all they had to do was ask.
His gracious life has impacted so many.
Two years ago, he made sure every unmarked grave in the “Baby Section” of the Ashland Cemetery had a marker. All at his expense. All because of his love.
I can only imagine his entry into heaven on Wednesday night being reunited with Karen, the love of his life, and having so many of these unnamed babies rushing to hug him. The long line of those he helped over the years who wanted to thank him probably stretched for miles on those golden streets.
When we all get to heaven. What a day of rejoicing that will be!
A day of loss for us but what a day of victory for him.
Mark Maynard is managing editor of Kentucky Today. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org