Jun. 18—Chris Painter couldn't have been more proud to be chosen for the Minnesota State athletics hall of fame.
He was supposed to be inducted last fall and honored during halftime of a football game, of which he missed very few over the years, but the pandemic pushed that back. He was still excited about receiving the honor this fall.
Now he won't get to experience that thrill. He died suddenly and unexpectedly Monday, leaving a gaping hole in this community that he dearly loved.
Painter became a community icon as one of the radio voices for Minnesota State football and basketball broadcasts, sitting alongside Casey Lloyd for many years, enthusiastically supporting the Mavericks' athletic teams.
If you had any questions about the North Central Conference, he was a go-to source. He could tell stories for hours about about road trips to Fargo, North Dakota, or games at Brookings, South Dakota.
No matter how many times you'd hear the story, it was almost always funny.
His presence usually dominated the room, his voice booming above others. His bright white hair earned him the nickname "Curly."
Combined with the death of Fred Roufs earlier this year, Minnesota State has lost two of its biggest supporters, both in terms of personality and passion. The Mankato Golf Club, more specifically the annual Loren Krugel Open, will also never be the same.
Painter also got great joy when helping to line up big-time musical acts to play in Mankato. He took great pride in the adding to the community where he lived more than 50 years.
Thursday golf games will be tough. Sometimes, his driver didn't work very well. The chipping and putting could be a crapshoot. He could get frustrated with himself because he couldn't execute the shots he used to play so skillfully.
But there was no better partner in the game, celebrating your successes and enjoying his own. Nobody took more pleasure in burying the 20-foot birdie on the 18th hole.
After golf, sipping a cold Transfusion, he would start the storytelling, sometimes about his exploits but more often about others.
In the last few years, spending time with grandchildren would replace golf on the weekends, and he couldn't have been happier. He often talked about dance recitals and plays with a big smile and how they had become the most important events in his life.
As you get older, you expect the hair to turn gray, maybe even fall out. You expect to lose a few yards off the tee ball. You expect to get up a few times during the night to use the bathroom.
You are never ready to start losing friends and family members; it seems that someone you know passes nearly every week.
Getting old sometimes sucks, though it beats the alternative. But losing loved ones is certainly not the future we were looking forward to as we grew up.
It was shocking to hear about Painter's death on Monday, and that pit in the stomach still remains. People like Painter are tough to replace. Friends like Painter are impossible to forget.
Chad Courrier is the Free Press sports editor. He's at 507-344-6353, firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ChadCourrier.