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Rest in peace, "Milt"

Daryle Gustavel passed away last week at age 47. This is a remembrance. 

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The first time I met Daryle Gustavel, I didn't know I was meeting Daryle Gustavel.

It was Nov. 2, 2008 and I was headed to cover a big Iroquois football playoff game against visiting Grand Island.

A super high school football fan and Iroquois graduate was aware that I was headed to the game: I knew him as "Milt Latimer." "Milt" was one of the most prolific contributors to the comments section of the Prep Talk blog at that time. He had given me all sorts of tips about where to park and he helped me secure a spot in the press box.

When I arrived, I found my spot, but I didn't find "Milt."

I went to the other end of the press box and asked legendary Iroquois public address announcer Bill Quick if he knew where I could find Milt Latimer.

He looked at me, appropriately, as if I were half-lunatic, half-idiot.

That's because Milt Latimer had died in 1966.

Latimer was a former Iroquois athletic director and coach who was the first inductee to the school's athletic Hall of Fame. I was standing in a press box at Milt Latimer Field.

Gustavel, a tremendously proud and passionate Iroquois fan, had chosen the handle "Milt Latimer" to use when he posted comments at the Prep Talk blog. We had a good laugh about it when we finally huddled up prior to the game.

Gustavel remained "Milt" to many throughout the Western New York football community ever since those early Prep Talk blog days, and he has without question been one of its most energetic and knowledgeable members.

In the early years of Prep Talk (the blog started in the 2007-08 school year), he was one of a handful of contributors who embraced the comments section and the weekly online chats as high school fans came together. His interest and involvement went on through the years, so much so that I came to call him a first-ballot Prep Talk blog Hall of Famer.

Since we've gone through a few computer systems here at The News, unfortunately I don't have the best examples of his contributions to share with you -- but trust me, they were detailed, they were smart and they were well-written. Sometimes they were pointed. A lot of times, they were Iroquois-centric. He and I had a few live-chat debates in which we banged heads, and I'd have some fun by accusing him of looking at the football world through an Iroquois-red-colored helmet shield.

Here are a few examples I could find of his contributions here (it is just a very small sampling):

 

Gustavel continued funneling his passion for high school football by becoming a major part of the Trench Trophy committee and by being a regular on WGR's "Inside High School Sports" radio program.

Photo by Daryle Gustavel.

Photo by Daryle Gustavel.

His contributions to our coverage went well beyond the brief mentions above. For several seasons, he personally helped me figure out the sometimes-confounding Section VI playoff picture. He updated whatever game he was attending, either with texts or through the blog. He was a constant presence in our live chats during the week -- and in-the-know enough that people were coming to the chat to see what he had to say (myself included) as much as they were coming to see what The News thought.

He would email tidbits that he had looked up in the record book. He'd share links to a story about an out-of-town power. On the blog, he'd (accurately) bring up inconsistencies in our polls. He'd help reporters like me track down players on the sideline in the chaotic moments after a big game.

And he'd take some snapshots and share them with us, like the picture of former #preptalkteammate Lauren Mariacher and I interviewing Chad Kelly of St. Joe's (at right), a photo that was the home-page image for the Prep Talk blog's Facebook page for years.

Speaking of Lauren, she wrote an excellent remembrance on Facebook.

Here's an excerpt:

"Daryle was an Iroquois Chief through and through, but when it came to football he was the stat machine for all of western New York. He knew as much as anyone about the area's best players and their teams. If you needed the answer to a local football question, you'd go straight to Daryle. ...

As knowledgable and well-versed as Daryle was on local football, he was better known for his welcoming personality. He knew just about everyone involved in Western New York football, and they knew him, and most likely because he walked right up to all of them at one point and introduced himself."

Gustavel wasn't all about football. I once did a story on the Iroquois golf team, and had mentioned it to him not fully realizing he was a golf guru as well -- he emailed me just about everything you needed to know about the players on the team. I know now, from others' stories, about his work on his family tree and his sharing of his father's photo library with the Iroquois community.

Gustavel -- and "Milt" -- made the high school football experience in Western New York better for players, fans, media and just about anyone associated with it -- for most of the past decade. I know that for a fact.

He had a passion for high school football, but he also had a passion for sharing it, which is probably more important. Ask me about Western New Yorkers who ARE high school football, and "Milt" is without question on that list.

Without people like him, there is no community. No matter what your accomplishments, personal or professional or otherwise, you want to have an impact on other peoples' lives, you want to have made the world -- your world, your community -- better for having you in it.

Rest in peace, Daryle Gustavel. Rest in peace, "Milt."

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Calling hours for Gustavel are from 3 to 7 p.m. Wednesday at Amigone Funeral Home in Elma. A funeral service follows at 7 p.m.

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