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WILL MCDONOUGH | 1935-2003

Real story was about giving back

The book has lingered on my desk for two weeks. It is a guide on China, and I kept forgetting to bring it into the office for Will.

He was planning a trip there next spring with his wife, Denise. Together they had seen Africa, Switzerland, Spain, and countless other destinations.

''Not bad for a guy from Southie, right?'' Will McDonough said to me just last week. ''Just remember, Kid, the news is your ticket.''

Will was the best sports reporter of all time. He landed some of the biggest scoops in history, yet many of them never carried his byline. When he unearthed a nugget that fell under the jurisdiction of a young writer, he'd often drop it in his or her lap and tell them, ''Here you go, kid.''

He always called me Kid. I am 42 years old now, married with two children, but I loved it when he pulled up his chair, and told me, ''So, Kid. Here's the real story.''

Well, let me tell you the real story about my friend, Will McDonough.

It has to do with a man who very quietly helped raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for sick children, people with cancer, and struggling families.

It has to do with a man who was fiercely devoted to his family, raising Erin, Terry, and Sean as a single parent in the '70s, then completely devoting his attention to Ryan and Cara when he married Denise, and started a second family in the '80s.

It has to do with a man whose loyalty was unmatched, whether it was to Bill Parcells, Whitey Bulger, or the guy from the Globe press room who couldn't afford to see the Patriots until Will handed him a pair of tickets.

I was still in my 20s when I was shocked to receive a phone call from television executive Terry O'Neil, who was starting a new show called the ''Sports Reporters.'' He invited me to an audition. As we sat having lunch, discussing the show, I asked O'Neil why he was giving someone like me, a virtual unknown, a shot. ''Because Will McDonough told me I should,'' he answered.

Last spring, my family and I were invited to a charity event on Nantucket for the Boys and Girls Club. They provided us with ferry passage, a car, and a beautiful home for the weekend. It was too good to be true, and it didn't take me long to realize Will had hooked me up again.

We wanted to do something nice for Will while we were on the island, so we invited him and Denise to lunch. When the bill came, and we tried to pay by credit card, the waiter informed us it was cash only. We didn't have enough money, so Will bought my family lunch.

''Is everything free in Nantucket?'' my 6-year-old son asked me later.

Only when you were with Will.

So how do you repay someone who always had your back, who believed in you more than you believed in yourself?

Will never liked two words - retirement party - so a couple of months ago our sports editor hatched a plan to organize a gala dinner in his honor with his favorite charity, the Joey Fund, as the beneficiary.

The party is canceled. The gala will not happen. Will will never get to China, and his record of attending every Super Bowl will be broken.

You remember what you want about Will McDonough. I loved and respected the reporter, but it's the man that I already miss so much it aches.

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