Those that spoke during Richard Durrett’s memorial service on Monday said that the late sportswriter likely would have hated the attention his death created the past eight days.
His family, friends and colleagues, along with members of the Texas Rangers and Dallas Stars, filled the chapel at Northway Christian Church in Dallas to near-capacity for a 90-minute service that celebrated the 38-year-old’s life. Durrett died unexpectedly on June 17.
Durrett was known to many sports fans as a writer for the Dallas Morning News and, since 2009, ESPNDallas.com, where his primary beats were the Rangers and Stars. He also hosted a radio show for KESN 103.3 FM, and many of his fellow writers and commentators showed up for Monday’s service. But by the conclusion of the service, it was clear that Durrett’s life was as wrapped up in his family and his church as it was in sports.
“Richard unknowingly taught us all how to be better fathers and husbands,” said Jim Webb, a former co-worker.
“Richard unknowingly taught us all how to be better fathers and husbands,” said Jim Webb, a former co-worker at the Denton Record-Chronicle who became friends with Durrett and regularly had lunch with him.
Webb spoke eloquently of Durrett’s love and passion for sports, including his alma mater, TCU; his father’s favorite college team, Auburn; and University of Kentucky basketball. As Webb got to know Durrett, he said, he learned the young writer was just as passionate about his then-fiancée and future wife, Kelly, and his faith.
Webb said you could see Durrett’s faith in God in how he lived his life, but he never flouted it, which fit with Durrett’s personality, a man filled with humility and integrity. “Richard was better than us because he didn’t know he was better than us,” Webb said.
Others talked about how Durrett easily made others feel important just by spending a few minutes talking with them. One of the ministers who presided over the service, the Rev. Mark Bender, joked that as much as people talked about having lunch with him that Durrett must have had lunch “six or seven times a day.” Bender said he became friends with Durrett, even though the by-laws of his contract with the church made it clear that he was not to become friends with parishioners.
Durrett and his family were members of Northway Christian Church, and he was heavily involved behind the scenes. Durrett served on several committees, chaired the search committee for a new musical director and sang in the church’s choir, along with his wife. The night before his death, Durrett was at Northway participating in a property committee meeting.
The choir participated in the service and placed Durrett’s choir robe on the last chair on the back row in his honor.
Chris Kelley, also a Northway member, hired Durrett at Dallasnews.com when Durrett was 27 years old. Kelley said that Durrett became the most versatile journalist he ever worked with, saying they would hand Durrett unique assignments just to see what he could do with them. Durrett would start sports debates with his trademark “Aw, c’mon” and then debate you point by point, never holding a grudge if the debate didn’t go his way.
Kelley admitted he had never gone to church with someone that worked for him, but he and Durrett’s working relationship grew into a friendship as Durrett and his wife welcomed their children, Owen and Alice.
“Here at church, Richard was Kelly’s husband and Owen and Alice’s father, and he loved that,” Kelley said.
Kelley admitted that when he went to Dallas Stars games, he would sit in section 324 and train his binoculars on the press box just to see what Durrett was up to that night.
Durrett’s death last Tuesday night was followed with an avalanche of memories of Durrett and support for his family. At one point shortly after his death, it was announced that only the new Kindle Fire phone and the World Cup trended higher on Twitter than Durrett. During Sunday night baseball on ESPN, Dan Shulman, John Kruk and Buster Olney paid tribute to Durrett during the fourth inning.
Along with his former colleagues and family, former Texas Rangers owners Tom Hicks and Nolan Ryan, former Texas Rangers infielder Michael Young, current Texas Rangers pitcher Colby Lewis and pitching coach Mike Maddux, and former Dallas Stars forward Mike Modano paid their respects to Durrett.
The Texas Rangers announced last week the Richard Durrett Family Fund. Donations can be made at Texasrangers.com/foundation or through the mail at Richard Durrett Family Fund, Texas Rangers Baseball Foundation, 1000 Ballpark Way, Ste. 400, Arlington, TX 76011.