There are those people in the world who make an impact on your life, just by hearing about them from other people or looking at the results of hard work they did to accomplish something.
Larry Cathey was one of those people.
The 2006 graduate of Eastern Michigan University worked in the sports department of The Eastern Echo in his time here and was known by many who knew him to be a very talented sports writer.
He died Saturday at the age of 34, after losing his six-month battle with colon cancer.
“He was very talented, very bright,” EMU Professor of Journalism Carol Schlagheck said.
Cathey was the assistant sports editor for former Echo sports editor Brian Calloway, who now covers Michigan State University football for the Lansing State Journal.
“One of the things that stood out about Larry was [his] sense of humor and his witty remarks and those things often were reflected with the creativity in his writing and helped make him a very talented guy,” Calloway said.
It was Cathey’s sense of humor that drew the attention of Vinnie Goodwill, who would later work for the Echo and now covers the Detroit Pistons for the Detroit News.
“I knew Larry first from his byline,” Goodwill told me. “He was really confident, really funny.”
Goodwill said as time went by, Cathey’s writing really stood out to him.
“As time went on, I [noticed] that this guy is really talented,” Goodwill said. “He painted a picture and made you laugh out loud.”
Cathey was very passionate about sports in his time at the Echo, often engaging in debates with other staffers.
“I remember when we were both aspiring sports writers, we used to battle it out.” Former Echo sports writer Creighton Hart recalled. “We were the original ‘First Take’. If you thought Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless were something, you should have seen us.”
Hart added: “I loved every minute of it.”
Cathey came to Eastern as a non-traditional student, having worked another career before making his way to Ferris State University and finally here to EMU.
Once Cathey arrived at Eastern, he began to work for the Echo. He also spent Friday nights answering phones alongside Goodwill at the Detroit News, where they got to know each other more.
“He [Cathey] was literally the most talented writer I had ever come across,” Goodwill said.
It was also at the News where Cathey met Linsay, the woman who would later be his wife.
After graduating from Eastern, he started from the bottom, moving to Hugo, Okla. and taking his first full-time journalism job.
“Instead of complaining that ‘I can’t find a job’, this guy worked it, moving to Hugo, Oklahoma,” Schlagheck said. “He really paid his dues.”
Cathey moved on from Hugo to Paris, Tex. and later to Grants Pass, Ore. He started as a sports writer for the Grants Pass Daily Courier, before being promoted to sports editor in February 2012.
Schlagheck said it was a “dream job”.
“I always tell my students, this is an example of how you do it.” she said.
In 2013, Larry and Linsay celebrated the birth of their baby daughter, Samantha Rose. It was also the same year Larry was diagnosed with Stage 4 colon cancer.
“I was very hopeful that he would beat it,” Schlagheck said.
Goodwill said that for as good a writer as Cathey was, he was an even better person. Even when Cathey was sick, he would still check in from time to time.
“Even when he was sick, he would send me e-mails telling me what a good job I was doing,” Goodwill said.
Goodwill expressed how proud Samantha should be for her father.
“Whether she remembers him or not, hopefully she’ll get a view of what her father was like,” he said.
I never got to meet Larry, but at an Echo function this past April, we were able to take a group photo with the current staff who had gathered, as well as a small group of alumni to show our support for him and his family.
Doing my interviews for this, I was able to get a great idea of what he was like as a writer and as a person. I sincerely hope this is a proper tribute to his character.
From the entire Echo editorial board and staff – past and present, I offer our condolences to Linsay, Samantha and the entire Cathey family.
Memorial arrangements can be found here.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to the Colon Cancer Alliance, 1025 Vermont Ave. N.W Suite 1066 Washington, D.C. 20005
Editor’s Note: Zach Urness, a former co-worker of Cathey’s shared a website which was set up so people can donate to a fund established for Samantha, Larry and Linsay’s daughter. The link can be found here
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