A former sports reporter in Florida spent the final days of his life penning his own obituary — in which he reminded his readers that “kindness is free. Sprinkle that stuff everywhere.”
David Alfonso, 73, who worked at the Tampa Tribune for 20 years, was hospitalized in July as his condition worsened after battling chronic lymphocytic leukemia for 25 years, the newspaper reported.
His wife, Janice, told him she wouldn’t be able to tell his story as well as she knew he could, so he decided to write his last story — one about his own life.
In the days before his death on Aug. 6, he summoned the energy to fill a yellow pad while lying on a hospital bed while on oxygen in the couple’s living room in Largo, taking breaks to watch the Olympics and various sports shows on TV, according to the paper.
When his former colleagues Tom Keyser and Mike O’Keeffe stopped by for another visit, Alfonso — “Fonz” to his close friends — had filled five or six pages. Keyser read the obit, asked a few questions, and took it home to type it up.
When Janice read the final draft later, she said she thought, “That’s my David.”
“He’s so frank. He has wit. It’s David,” she told the Tribune.
Alfonso began his life story by describing himself as “a fine writer and mostly decent human” who was “born March 7, 1948, to Grace Alfonso, a bank teller, and Alfred Alfonso, a janitor and life-long scrapper.”
He said that when they lived in a basement apartment, he used to ride his “trike through the wooden hallways later in the day.
“Think a benevolent Danny in The Shining,” he added, referring to the boy in the 1980 horror flick.
“Al and Grace sacrificed mightily for me, always, so that I might inch ahead in life, ‘make it,’ if you will. And to a significant degree I did, although a determined, under-achiever side would interfere,” Alfonso wrote.
“When it came to the ladies, I was a prodigious over-achiever, culminating with marriage to my Queen of Hearts, Janice Harwell,” he wrote.
“The University of Florida was my destiny. But while I was interested in everything, I piddled through with a degree in philosophy. Really, philosophy. Not what you were expecting, right?” Alfonso continued.
“I worked as a ‘housing counselor’ and then, a couple of years later (it was the Watergate influence), I decided that maybe I could be a newspaper writer. And darned if it didn’t happen,” he said.
“I covered a ton of big-time college football games and had a front-row seat to the last golden era of boxing, the 1980s and Leonard, Hagler, Hearns, Duran. I saw the drama up close and mingled with THE best writers, of which I was occasionally genuinely included,” the former sports scribe said.
After marrying Janice in 1986, he said, he switched careers and became an algebra teacher at his alma mater, Plant High. He retired in 2008 and moved to Largo with his wife, where he spent his final days.
“Now it’s time to say goodbye. A 25-year duel with chronic lymphocytic leukemia has come crashing down with a vengeance, and I do mean a vengeance,” he wrote.
“Once a two-time finisher at St. Anthony’s Triathlon, I am bed-ridden and don’t care for it a bit, even as the wonderful care of Hospice tries to take the edge off the inevitable,” Alfonso said.
“It was a great ride, with lots of laughs and tenderness. In keeping with the tradition of obits, I ask you to make a donation to a worthy cause. They’re everywhere. (Clearwater Audubon Society perhaps?),” he added.
Alfonso closed out his obit with: “Finally, buy a Sunday newspaper and enjoy it over a cheese omelette, crispy hash browns, thick bacon, fresh Florida OJ, and a large café con leche.
“And remember: Kindness is free. Sprinkle that stuff everywhere,” he added.