Crystal Lake Central goalkeeper Caitlyn Dayton received numerous texts of support from her teammates Friday, many with the same message.
The Tigers offered their sympathy for Dayton losing her grandfather, Bo Leahey, who died from a heart attack Thursday night. Most of them mentioned the postgame hugs they received from one of Crystal Lake’s greatest sports fans.
“We always told him, ‘Stop being the creepy old man,’ ” said Mike Dayton, Caitlyn’s father.
Bo’s daughter Tracey Dayton added, “And he didn’t care. He did not care.”
Bo Leahey, 69, grew up in St. Louis and played catcher for Chaminade High School’s baseball team. He was an invaluable athletic backer at South, almost from the point the school opened in the fall of 1978.
Leahey still was working the chain gang at Gators’ football games, formerly served as booster club president, helped start the Gary Collins Shootout and rarely missed any important games.
And as Mike Dayton says, if Bo knew you, he was your friend. And Bo knew everybody.
“After football games, the kids would be walking by and it’s, ‘Come on Bo, let’s go,’ ” Mike said. “He had to pound fists with every guy. The kids knew him and the kids liked him. The same is true for Caitlyn’s soccer team. Occasionally he might miss a game and someone would say, ‘Hey, where’s your father-in-law?’ And I’d say, ‘I’m here.’ ”
Bo being there seemed to make it official though. Because he was ubiquitous.
Tracey said Bo had the flu and did not feel well Wednesday. Bo loved to talk, so when Tracey didn’t hear from him Thursday, she went to check on him and found him unconscious. Cleta Leahey, Bo’s wife, was in St. Louis and returned to Crystal Lake on Friday afternoon.
Kevin Leahey, Bo’s son, and Tracey said they practically can count on one hand the number of their games Bo missed. Now, it was the same thing with Caitlyn’s games. He saw her play March 16, when the Tigers played Mundelein to a 0-0 tie.
Bo called Caitlyn on Monday when she was in Florida on a band trip to wish her “happy birthday.” Tracey said Bo, a national accounts manager who sold eggs, already was looking ahead to Thursday’s Central soccer game, knowing he was going to leave a food show an hour early to make the game on time.
Bo was a salesman, a character and a coach’s best friend.
“He’s one of our all-time biggest boosters,” Gators football coach Chuck Ahsmann said. “He’s always been a big promoter of everything South High School. Certainly as a coach you appreciate the parents who want to put in the time and effort to help out and make things better for the kids.”
Former South boys basketball coach Gary Collins concurred.
“He was a diehard Gators fan, booster, the whole thing,” Collins said. “He always did what you asked. You could always count on him to do a great job. Those guys are hard to come by. It’s a major loss for the South athletic program.”
One of Bo’s favorite claims was that, no matter what the weather, he wore shorts while working the chains at South football games. For road games, he’d wear pants, but the official home uniform was shorts.
“He loved the attention, that’s why he wore the shorts,” Caitlyn said.
Bo’s fervor started well before Tracey and Kevin were in high school, and extended well after they graduated. If South wasn’t playing somewhere, he’d go watch another big football playoff or basketball tournament game.
“You couldn’t keep up with him,” Mike said. “He lived from that moment to the next moment to the next moment through those kids on the fields and courts.”
• Joe Stevenson is a senior sports writer for the Northwest Herald. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. You also can follow him on Twitter @nwh_JoePrepZone.