Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Goodbye Leigh

Leigh Kaback died Sunday.

You don't know her. She had no connection to Princeton or Princeton Athletics.

She was the oldest of Dorothy and Arnold Zucker's five kids. She was followed by four brothers, in order - Larry, Corey, Brad and Ed.

For his final two years of high school, TigerBlog probably spent as much time in the Zucker house as he did in his own. Mr. Zucker would go out every morning and get bagels, and they were always on the kitchen counter. His bark was way worse than his bite, and he cared deeply about everyone who stepped in to his kitchen to get one of his bagels - and a lot of people routinely stepped into his kitchen.

For her part, Mrs. Zucker, who could have played "Maude" on the 1970s sitcom, would walk around the house and basically make fun of everyone in a way that said "you'll never be more welcome anywhere." She was, well, she was the best.

And now Leigh, like her parents, is gone.

TigerBlog never had a sister. The closest he came was Leigh, who always seemed older than she was, always seemed like an authority figure, always had a way of letting you know that she was on to you, whatever it was, but that she was okay with it at the same time.

She had a giant heart, Leigh did. She cared about TigerBlog like very few people ever have. You know. Like a big sister.

TigerBlog found out about Leigh's death when he turned his phone on after landing in Philadelphia Sunday. She had been in hospice care, so TB knew the end was near. Still, when he read the words that she was gone, it hit him hard.

Leigh was just 55 when she died. She got married to Mark Kaback when she was just 19, and they were married for 36 years.

Leigh battled health issues for a long time, like since she was a teenager. TigerBlog often visited her in various hospitals, and it was her spirit that kept her alive as long as it could.

And the end came Sunday.

TigerBlog isn't quite sure why he wanted to tell you about Leigh. It has something to do with the fact that she was such an important part of his life for a long time.

Plus, there's not that much going on at Princeton right now.

The last athletic event of the 2015-16 athletic year is this week, as Princeton has three athletes who will be competing at the NCAA track and field championships in Eugene, Ore.

There are two men and one woman, and the two men compete today.

Freshman Adam Kelly goes first, in the hammer throw. Princeton is used to having someone in Eugene this time of year in the hammer throw, and that's Julia Ratcliffe of the women's team. She won the championship two years ago and was runner-up last year. This year, she's taking off to train for the Olympics, but she'll be back next year.

As for Kelly, he finished second at Heps, where he had a season-best 67.50 meters. There are 24 throwers in the event, in two 12-man flights of three throws each. The top nine will advance to the final and get three more throws.

The other male athlete is pole vaulter Adam Bragg, a senior who finished 12th two years ago. Bragg this year ranks sixth in Division I headed into the NCAA finals.

The final Princeton athlete who will compete this year will be Cecilia Barowski, the von Kiensbusch Award winner as the top female athlete. Barowski will compete in the 800 semifinal Thursday and hope to compete Saturday in the final.

Barowski won both of her heats at the NCAA regionals in Florida two weeks ago. She is a legitimate All-America threat, and she seems to be getting better with each race. After this she will compete in the Olympic Trials as she continues to make a mark for herself nationally.

When Barowski is done, the 2015-16 athletic year will be as well.

There will be plenty of time in the next few days and weeks to review that athletic year, which was by any definition a great one for Princeton.

For today, though, TB wanted to tell you about Leigh.

TigerBlog went to her house last night to pay his respects. Like any house after a funeral, there is something of a party atmosphere, with food, drinks, people you haven't seen in years. TigerBlog saw a few people from high school, including Kevin McCarty, who was the best running back and best trumpet player in his school, which is probably a rarity.

It wasn't all a party though. There were pictures of Leigh throughout, pictures of her smiling for whatever occasion it happened to be. TB could hear her voice, and again, he thought of her as being older than she really was.

In reality, she was not old at all. She was simply too young.

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