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Remembering a former teammate and friend, Mickey Arnold, a class act in every way

RIP Mickey Arnold 1947-2023 -- obituary photo

… just wanted to help others, like “others helped me”

One of the joys of childhood for me was meeting so many friends and playing sports a50nd other activities with them.

So, when one of them passes away, it takes you back to some good times.

Conversation from 1999

I last talked with Mickey Arnold in May 1999, but I never forgot that conversation. This occurred during the 50th anniversary of the Lilly-Washington War Memorial Association and athletic facility, where both of us started our playing careers.

Mick passed away on Nov. 7, and I really want to express what he told me then because it had such an impact on me. I had not seen him in decades, but from a distance, he spotted me and started walking toward me. As soon as I saw that walk, I knew who it was.

He was an outstanding athlete in three sports: football, basketball, and baseball. We did not post winning seasons in those years. We were playing teams that were from schools that were twice as large as we were or in one case, ten times larger than our 140 students in grades 9 though 12.

That did not matter. You and your teammates worked hard and did well enough despite those odds. Mick was an offensive and defensive end in football, a 6-1 forward in basketball, and a great all-around baseball player. We had no high school baseball team, but Mick competed with us in little league, pony league, and American Legion.

The conversation that influence my opinion

However, what he and I discussed in the conversation that day had more to do with our post-high school years. And this is what I recalled about that.

After graduation, Mickey enlisted in the Navy and became a signalman on an aircraft carrier. He spent three years in the military including stints in Vietnam during the war.

When he finished his military service, he then started a career though not immediately. Mick explained to me how he had returned to school after working some young people in Pittsburgh who had gone through some tough times. That led him first to a community college and worked toward an associate’s degree, and then to the University of Pittsburgh, where he ultimately earned a B.S. degree in vocational distributed education.

Later, he returned to Pitt and earned a master’s degree in education.

What I learned about Mick, though, was what kind of man he had become. He told me how he had worked with at-risk youth and realized that this was to become his life’s work. He told me how much he loved what he did, working with young people and trying to give them direction in their lives.

It was, he said, his way of giving back to the many people who had given him direction in his life.

Anyone who worked in education knows how challenging it is for a teacher to work in urban schools, yet that is all that he wanted to do. I realized that with his background he could have taught anywhere in the Pittsburgh area and have earned more money. However, Mick expressed a dedication that is so vital — and often overlooked — today.

Yes, dedication. He worked hard as an athlete at Lilly-Washington High School, but his contribution after that is what I will never forget. That conversation revealed to me just what a quality human being Mickey Arnold had become.

My sympathy to Mickey's family. He was one of six children and grew up on Scanlan Hill outside of Lilly. I remember so well giving Mickey and Joe Panek rides home to that great hill after our basketball practice. Without a ride, they would have to hitchhike a ride down there. That shows how much desire he had to play sports.

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