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Zip always kept the empty sleeve of his white shirt neatly folded and clamped with a plastic clothespin-red, blue, yellow, green-he changed the colors the way some guys changed their ties. The walls of his bar were hung with framed photographs of the softball teams he'd sponsored, and there was also a photo of a young Uncle Lefty with his boxing gloves cocked, taken when he fought in the Golden Gloves tournament. I'm a convert, but hey, converts are the true believers. Fact is, my right arm is killing me today. Means rain.

Both Zip and I glanced out the door propped open with the doorstop of a brass spittoon. Sunbeams fuming with blue tobacco smoke streamed into the dim tavern.

Zip looked at me and shrugged. Uncle Lefty snatched the checked bar rag from Zip's left shoulder and toweled off my hair as if I was dripping wet. And later, my pockets jangling with tips, we'd open invisible umbrellas and step from Zip's into the phantom rain, on our way to Red's on Damen, or to the frigid, mint blue bar at Cermak Bowl, where, I believed, air-conditioning was invented, or to Juanita's, a bar that also served tacos, or to the VFW, which had slot machines.

There were more taverns in the neighborhood than we could visit in a single afternoon. At every stop it was the same: "Old Man River," applause, bar change, and root beer, until Uncle Lefty, who was downing two boilermakers to every drink of mine, would caution, "You're gonna have a head of foam when you pee. Don't tell your mother how many you've had or we'll both be in Dutch with her. My mother was Lefty's older sister. It was from her that I'd heard how Lefty had wanted to be a musician ever since he was a kid.

As a child, Lefty had chronic bronchitis, and my mother remembered him spending his sick days home from school devising instruments from vacuum-cleaner attachments. He'd give the family a concert at night, humming through his homemade horns while moving his fingers as if tootling up and down the scale.


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My mother said that Lefty could perfectly imitate the sound of any wind instrument so long as he had a vacuum-cleaner nozzle or a cardboard tube that he could pretend to blow. When he was thirteen, Lefty saved enough money from his paper route to buy a trumpet, but a week after buying it, he had a front tooth broken in a school-yard fight, which ruined his embouchure.

So he traded in the trumpet for a tenor saxophone, and took the precaution of signing up for boxing lessons at St. Vitus, where Father Herm, a priest who was an ex-heavyweight, trained boys to fight in Catholic Youth Organization bouts.

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For months, Lefty monopolized the full-length mirror on my mother's bedroom door, shadowboxing himself into a sweat. The opponent in the mirror was Bobby Vachata, the kid who'd broken Lefty's tooth, though no one suspected Lefty's boxing obsession was fueled by revenge until he gave Vachata a beating and brought a furious Father Herm to the house.

Lefty was expelled from the St. Vitus CYO, and for the next year the proceeds from his paper route went to pay Vachata's dental bills. When he wasn't shadowboxing, Lefty was in the basement "practicing his sax. The family could hear the sound rising through the heating ducts as he slurred and honked and wailed-a mimicry so convincing that, if you didn't know, you'd think there was a virtuoso down there, who could play any song at will. But my mother knew his fingers were still moving along imaginary scales, and his pretend playing no longer seemed cute to her as it had back when Lefty would give them concerts after dinner.

Something about all that music at once unexpressed and yet erupting from her younger brother, all that sound swirling nonstop in his head, made her afraid for him. Then, one evening, she heard Lefty suddenly stop improvising on "How High the Moon. By high school Lefty had grown into a welterweight and was training for the Golden Gloves at Gonzo's Gym on Kedzie, where the mostly lighter-division Mexican fighters boxed. He'd taught himself to play the sax almost as proficiently as he'd once faked playing it.

With a few buddies from Farragut High, he started the Bluebirds, which Lefty described as a bebop polka band.


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They played taverns for parties and weddings with Lefty on sax and vocals. He is predeceased by sisters, Frances B. Jones, Judith B. Hatfield, and Durward Anne B. He was a member of Suffolk Presbyterian Church. Broad Street, Suffolk by Rev. Libby Rollins. Condolences may be offered at www. Funeral Home. Start Time. Tuesday, September 15, - pm. End Time. Wednesday, September 16, - am. Print Obituary Print Obituary Only.

Sorry for your loss friend. Joshua Belcher.

Susan Morgan Patton. Darlene Hicks Barnes.


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  6. Your smile was so bright and your laugh infectious. You will be missed my friend. Thinking of you my friend, and prayers for strength. Stephanie Morris. Sharon Lassiter.

    Juanita the Bruiser

    Thomas Moore. RIP Bruiser! Jennifer Thomas. Shirley Fry Poss. Sorry for your loss, I am sure he will be missed by many. Bruce Bowles. Ronald H. Katie Hager. Jeff Underwood.

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    Wanda Clark. Jim Darden. Tommy Hines Jr. Laura Darden. His overall head coaching record was As a player at Ole Miss, Kinard earned four letters in football and two in baseball. Bruiser, who is considered one of the greatest players in Ole Miss history, was a two-time All-American and is a member of the College and Pro Football Halls of Fame. Following his senior season, Kinard was selected in the second round 25th overall pick of the National Football League draft by the Cleveland Browns. He played his rookie season with the Browns and then two years with the Green Bay Packers before ending his professional career in with the Buffalo Bills of the American Football League.

    Before returning to Ole Miss as head coach, Kinard had spent the season as defensive backfield coach under Frank Broyles at Arkansas.