MISSOULA – Too often we think of the stars as the ones that fuel athletics.

The best players. The best teams. The Strongest.

They’re the coolest, aren’t they? College, high school, college, pro … always the coolest.

We shower them with gratitude and praise. Then as we get older we realize that everything is very temporary. The stars come and go – I bet you couldn’t even name the MVP of the Montana soccer team four years ago – but the heart of the sport continues to live on with die-hard fans.

Ten days ago, Ray Nose passed away at the age of 70. You probably haven’t heard of it. A little blurb on the obituary page was Ray’s acknowledgment.

He deserved a bigger splash.

Born with a developmental disability, Nose lived for local high school and sports in Montana Grizzly. He was a regular at games and even enjoyed city league athletics for nearly half a century, always carrying a notebook to record scores and stats, never hesitating to help out as a member. chain gang or ball collector volunteer at soccer games.

Ray was so beloved that he blew the competition up in 2004 when the Missoulian Sports Department named him Fan of the Year. When you are able to do that in a city of 63,000 people (at the time), it says something.

Still, the “fan” label didn’t do the man justice.

Ray transcended sports, reminding us all of the joy of this life when we let the sun shine. Whether watching or competing (Special Olympian, bowler, swimmer, etc.)

“We live and are caught in this crazy time and place where we as a community and country are so divided and angry,” Gary Schild wrote of his friend, Ray Nose, in a recent Facebook post. . “I don’t know what it takes, or how we’ll get there, but take a minute this morning to be thankful for the times a guy like Mr. Ray Nose, with all of his ‘perceived’ disabilities, was able to bring 5 000 people at their feet, wildly swinging a towel over his head for the sake of his Missoula team.

“We need more of this… and I’ll leave it at that.”

I never knew Ray Nose. Didn’t land in Montana early enough or meet him in the past few years when he spread his enthusiasm for the sport through the halls of the Village Care Health Center. I would have liked to meet him.

“He’s been such a happy person his whole life,” noted Daurine Spritzer, a longtime friend and sports enthusiast. “He was good at making the most of whatever situation came his way.

“For those of you who knew him, he was really a very special person. For those of you who never had the pleasure of spending time with him, sorry, but I know you would really liked talking with him. “

Perhaps the best that can be said about Ray Nose is that his story forces us to be better human beings. Or at least try.

We’re talking about a guy who rode his bike all over the place and never bothered to lock it up. And as you can imagine, he lost more than one bike.

Maybe he just chose to believe the best of his neighbor. I never thought too much of the worst.

My God, this place needs a little more kind souls like Ray Nose.

Bill Speltz is the sports editor of Missoulian and has been a Sunday columnist for the past 14 years. Do you have a story idea? Email Bill at [email protected]soulian.com.