SPORTS DESK/Bob Liepa: Chuck Adams lived his life chasing dreams

Chuck Adams was about life, which makes writing about his death all the more sadder.

A little before 1 p.m. on Tuesday, Andrew Olsen, the Times/Review Newspapers publisher, gathered staff members together at the company’s Mattituck offices to deliver some awful news: Chuck Adams, one of our freelance sports reporters, had died that morning. We were at once stunned and deeply saddened. I suspect that was the same reaction felt by others as the news spread throughout the community where Chuck had made a name for himself as a journalist, author, sports talk show personality and businessman.

Chuck was a paraplegic. His paralysis was the result of a breech birth. Over the course of his life, he underwent spinal fusion surgery three times, the most recent being 12 months ago. Although the outcome of that operation appeared to be good, he had some trouble recently with back spasms that he took pain medication for. Lori Wulffraat, a cousin of Chuck’s, said the family is awaiting an autopsy, but they suspect that Chuck died from a bad reaction to the medication. He was 55 years old.

Chuck’s death has sent shock waves throughout the community.

“This is devastating,” said Doug Wald, who had joined Chuck from time to time as a guest host on “The Hot Stove League,” a weekly cable television sports show. “I’m beside myself right now.”

Chuck worked as a corporate sales representative for BJ’s Wholesale Club. Prior to that he was the vice president of marketing and public relations for Riverhead Savings Bank. But many knew him because of his byline in area newspapers. He covered sports for Times/Review Newspapers for about 20 years.

As the sports editor who worked with Chuck during that whole time, I can say that he was hard-working, conscientious and reliable. Many a time, with a deadline pressing, Chuck came through for us in a pinch, picking up a late-breaking story. When I gave him an assignment, I could rest assured that it would be done. In those rare instances when it couldn’t, it wasn’t because of a lack of effort on his part. That is why I suspected something was wrong Tuesday morning when I still had not received any of the stories he had been assigned for this week’s papers.

Chuck came to us from the Long Island Traveler-Watchman. I recall how we had just about completed a working agreement with him before he joined us when he said there was one final thing he had to tell me: He didn’t type. Chuck wrote his stories out by longhand on yellow legal paper. Someone at the paper would then input the stories into a computer, a device which at the time was foreign to Chuck.

That arrangement lasted for a while until we finally decided it was time to introduce Chuck to the computer age. We sent him home with a computer and he filed his stories electronically ever since.

Chuck came a long way in terms of technology. He even has a Facebook page now. His last entry on that page was on New Year’s Day when he wrote: “To all my family and friends, this has been a difficult year in so many ways, so I want to thank you all for your love and support…Happy New Year!!!”

That brings to mind what I will remember most about Chuck: his upbeat manner. The image of him smiling remains. He was just a nice, friendly guy.

“He was a lovely guy, absolutely a lovely guy,” Wald said. “There was not a bad bone in his body.”

Chuck lived life to the fullest, with all it had to offer. He didn’t let the fact that he was in a wheelchair prevent him from pursuing his dreams. He was the captain of Hofstra University’s wheelchair basketball team. He covered sporting events. He completed a novel, “Something More,” 31 years after he started it. It came out last April and was to be the first in a trilogy.

Asked what he will remember most about Chuck, Ed Zaborowski, the host of “The Hot Stove League,” took some time to mull the question over.

“It’s hard,” Zaborowski, clearly shaken, said in an interview Tuesday night. “You can never really sum up someone’s life in a few words. I’ll remember that he was a person who loved his family and his daughters. He really embraced life. He didn’t shy away from it. It would have been easy for somebody in his situation to be a recluse, stay out of the spotlight, but he wasn’t like that.”

One of Chuck’s joys was “The Hot Stove League.” He didn’t appear on this past Monday night’s show. Chuck had e-mailed Zaborowski that day, letting him know that he wasn’t feeling well and wouldn’t be able to appear.

Zaborowski said the next show this coming Monday night will be a tribute to Chuck, but he acknowledged that he wasn’t sure where his emotions will take him once the camera light goes on. He said, “It’s going to be hard to talk about.”

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