I keep a gift from Gene Pemberton with me everywhere I go, and it's been a candle in the dark.

The Central Texas community lost one of it's greatest champions Sunday.

I don't say that lightly. Gene Pemberton, who passed away Sunday at 79, was fiercely loyal to the Temple Wildcats and passionate about all Central Texas sports in a way few people I know are passionate about anything.

I had the pleasure of working with Gene for a little over a decade as the producer of Temple Wildcat football on KTEM and later KLTD, Sports Talk of the Town, and his Temple Wildcat halftime shows. During that time, I got to know Gene as a man with a sly sense of humor, contagious enthusiasm, unshakable faith, and a positive spin on any hardship you shared with him.

And I shared plenty.

My 20's were a turbulent time. I was homeless at one point, and when I did find a place to stay, my mother became ill and it fell on me to take care of her. In 2015, she came down with pneumonia and spent nearly two months in a medically induced coma in the ICU. I was working long hours for little pay, and the stress was tearing up my guts.

I was a mess.

I tried not to burden others with my problems and be nothing but professional in the studio, but it was impossible not to open up to Gene. He didn't pry or coax, but he knew when something was on your mind and always had words of encouragement inspired by both his Christian faith and his just being a downright decent human being. He was easy to talk to because you knew he genuinely cared.

One day, as we were setting up for a show, Gene passed me a piece of paper. It kills me that I can't remember what he said when he handed it to me, but it's what's written on the paper that really matters.

Gene's Words of Wisdom | TSM
Gene's Words of Wisdom | TSM

This slip of paper is one of my most prized possessions. I suppose I should frame it or otherwise try to preserve it, but for now it stays folded and carefully tucked in my wallet so that it goes where I go. I can pull it out, read it, and hear Gene's voice during times of need. And trust me, there are plenty of times of need.

I'm sure my story isn't unique. Gene touched countless lives, and there are probably slips of paper like this in many wallets, purses, desk drawers, and scrapbooks. Each one was a gift from a man who was proud to be your friend.

I just hope he knew how proud each of us was to be his.


Visitation for Gene Pemberton will be held from 6 PM to 8 PM Friday, February 1 at Scanio-Harper Funeral Home, 3110 Airport Road.

Services will be held at 11 AM Saturday, February 2 at Bethel Assembly of God, 22621 SE H.K. Dodgen Loop.

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