When it comes to proverbs passed down that become a part of our common usage, it’s often a matter of scholarly conjecture as to where they originate. The one that came to mind last week when I learned of Vince Koza’s passing is the proverb associated with the Roman naval commander known to historians as Pliny the Elder.
And, that proverb is, “Home is where the heart is.” The Sunday obituary on Vince told me something I really didn’t know, that, like myself, he came into this world just outside of Chicago, he in Oak Park and I in Oak Lawn. What I did know is that also, like myself, he didn’t stay there long. While my trek took me to Lima in 1958, Vince did his growing up in Streetsboro in Portage County.
However, I don’t think I or anyone who got to know Vince during his 40 years in Lima upon his arrival a couple decades and a couple years after I arrived would see either Oak Park or Streetsboro as his home. It was instead in Lima that he found the right girl, his Holly, to marry and raise daughters Sarah Grace and Brittany Ann. It was in Lima where he would find his charitable causes that aroused his passions to lend his support and his talents on the mic. It was in Lima where he would become a familiar face and voice for all of us drawn to the games we love to watch and to those who play them.
Certainly one of the unique aspects of living in a small town is we often have the opportunity to get to know those who appear on our TVs and whose voices come through our radios. Somewhere between my getting to know personally the likes of Tom Francis, Jeff Fitzgerald, Mike Mullen and Mike Miller, I came to know Vince.
While our paths crossed periodically at LCC games in which I provided public address in the 1980s and early ‘90s while Vince covered the event as part of his WLIO TV-35 duties, I really didn’t come to know him well until the late ‘90s when he expressed interest in regularly bringing me and six of my sports-loving cohorts into his broadcast world as sports trivia experts billed as The Magnificent Seven for his Saturday morning sports talk show, “Sports Talk with Koza.” With coupons for pizza and T-shirts and other such enticements hanging in the balance for callers who could stump us, myself and Dick Shuckers, Mickey Miller, Mike “Shag” Schepp, Ron Moening, Denny Helmig and Dan Grothaus so enjoyed our time with Vince, both in the studio and on remotes at various locations.
Following our leap into the 21st century, I served as a co-host to Mike Schepp on his radio sports talk show that ran Saturday mornings as the lead-in show to Vince’s show, both broadcast from the McDonald’s on Market Street.
I remember one remote in particular during our Magnificent Seven days out at the fairgrounds during the Allen County Fair seeing Vince about 10 minutes before we would broadcast, pacing back and forth just below the platform upon which we were set up. His lips were moving, and there were occasional hand gestures that told me what it was, his own self-motivational pre-broadcast pep talk. I thought about that moment last weekend while looking at a couple of photos of shows we did with Vince, photos I dug out of a drawer where all old photos seem eventually to be reposited.
In Tara Jones’ article on Vince’s passing last Saturday, long-time local sportswriter Jim Naveau pointed to the fact that Vince’s style was unconventional. Certainly, that is true. While that style may have been criticized by some, for that is a matter of personal taste and their right, just as it is their right to criticize the style of national broadcasters heard on ESPN or Fox Sports, when it comes to this sports guy, there is one indisputable fact.
When it came to the two big “E’s” — effort and enthusiasm — that define every one of us who rise in the morning to grab our lunch pails and punch our chosen career time clocks, be those clocks metaphorical or real, when it came to Vincent G. Koza, well, let’s just say he had both of them in spades.
John Grindrod is a regular columnist for The Lima News, a freelance writer and editor and the author of two books. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.