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Columnist Chris Villani, at a much younger age, enjoys some time with his grandfather and Milford athlete, Donald "Ducky" Sayles, who passed away last week.

Remembering a Milford Legend
Folks who were involved with the Milford sports scene in the mid to late 1940s say Donald "Ducky" Sayles was one of the best athletes they ever played with. He was a three-sport star for St. Mary's, a standout shortstop for the Milford Legion, and even played baseball while serving in the United States Navy during the Korean War. When he passed away last Tuesday, he was remembered by a number of people for his athletic accomplishments.
But, to me, he was just grandpa.
Aside from my dad, there were not many people who introduced me to sports as much as my grandfather. He helped me to learn how to swing a whiffle ball bat when I was too small for a regular one. He also taught me a valuable sports lesson, how to lose. Unlike most other adults, he had no qualms about beating the six-year-old version of me in cards and letting me know about it as well.
People say he was a great athlete, but he never bragged about his accomplishments to me, even when I asked him. He claimed to have set a record by being knocked out more times in one football season than any player in history. He also said he was 140 pounds of "rompin' stompin' football muscle." But, beyond that, he saved his bragging for my mom, my Uncle Mike, my cousins Ali and Conor, and myself.
The biggest part of his sporting legacy that he handed down to me was his affinity for the football team at the University of Notre Dame. He was a huge fan of the Fighting Irish, and his support for them always mirrored his personality, upbeat and optimistic regardless of the circumstances. Raising two children on a shoestring budget must have made him appreciative of the positives in life and granted him an uncanny ability to see past the negatives. Each year, Notre Dame would come up short despite high expectations. Each off-season, he would talk to me with great energy about how talented their recruiting class was that was coming in and how excited he was for the next year. He even had a habit of taping all of the games, so he could watch his favorites over and over again.
When the Irish won, my dad would kid him by saying they had paid off the referees, but my mom would say it was because they had more angels on their side. Notre Dame is coming off an eight win season and a bowl appearance and has a pretty good recruiting class coming in...and now, they have one more angel on their side.
Grandpa may want to find a VCR in heaven, or maybe a DVR as I assume heaven to be fairly up-to-date in terms of technology, because it looks like a good year coming up for the Irish. I know he'd be optimistic and cheerful about it as he was with everything else.
When I gave his eulogy this week, I could only think of three phrases to sum up what I was feeling about him.
I love you, Grandpa. I'm going to miss you. Go Irish.




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