It wasn’t a great week for many in the Ocala area.
Chris Uhle, a 22 year old from Belleview, Florida died suddenly from an apparent heart attack this week shocking those who were close to the family.
Chris was well known for a number of reasons:
* First, he was nearly 7 foot tall.
* Secondly, he was a local high school basketball star from Trinity Catholic.
* Thirdly, he had recently completed a standout career at Rollins College.
* Fourth, he had just signed a professional basketball contract with a Japanese team and was set to leave in the next few days.
* Fifth, he was almost a perfect kid.
I say kid because I knew Chris in 8th grade when I took a job in The Villages at the local middle school and still think of him that way. His mother, Alissa was a beautiful young teacher there who immediately became one of my favorites.
Alissa could speak intelligently on a number of subjects, but rarely spoke to me about anything but Chris and basketball. It quickly became apparent that she and her son had a special bond that was unbreakable.
He was her life.
For his part, Chris was the smartest guy in the school, probably the nicest, and just a joy to be around. Quiet but comfortable, it was obvious to all of the staff that he had a bright future ahead of him.
He was tall at that time, around 6”4’, and was a star on a very good basketball team coached by his father Craig.
Craig was no slouch himself, standing a couple inches shy of seven feet and being a former college basketball star. He coached the 8th grade team to an exceptional record that season before turning his son over to the high school coaches.
Craig was a popular fixture around The Villages and Ocala, known as a gentle giant who always had a kind word for everybody.
After I left The Villages, I lost touch of Chris, but managed to talk to Alissa occasionally. Of course, our conversations continued to be all about Chris and basketball. I always wanted to offer to give Chris private lessons but thought it might offend his father as he had been a better player than me.
Two weeks ago, I ran into Alissa at Publix in Belleview. We began our usual Chris conversation and as always she lit up when discussing him. She hinted that he was getting close to going overseas to play basketball and I certainly was not surprised. The pride in her voice was palpable.
Then the unthinkable happened and her world along with that of Craig and their daughter Alex was changed forever.
As I sit here typing and reflecting on how the world is often so unfair, I am also watching the clock. In two hours, I am heading to the Uhle house to deliver a meal and to try to hold myself together seeing such good people in horrible pain.
I don’t always understand God’s plan but I know that Chris made a difference while he was here. In retrospect, I guess that is what really matters.
But Ocala sure lost a good one…