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Recalling Fosko's legacy

Dusty Luthy Shull

Editor's note: This is a reprint of former Paducah Sun sports writer Dusty Luthy Shull's column that ran June 18, 2013, one day after longtime Sun sports writer Joey Fosko died of a heart attack. 

Words were the product of Joey Fosko's life.

And on Monday, so many of us were at a loss for words.

For a time at least. And then we couldn't find enough words to describe the western Kentucky sports legend.

Friend. Brother. Son. Colleague. Ambassador. Archivist. Historian. Supporter.

Joey Fosko, a Paducah Sun employee since 1986 and sports writer for nearly that long, died early Monday morning, just a few minutes into his 46th birthday. His unexpected absence from a world he so dearly loved rocked us all.

A love for words started early for Joey. His parents, Jan and Joe Fosko, said he learned to read by age 3. By the time third grade rolled around, he was a word aficionado.

Before Joey became a Paducah Sun sports writer, he was a five-time city spelling bee champion. His only miscue came at the state spelling bee.

"He missed the word 'hydraulic,'" Jan Fosko said, "and his dad worked on hydraulic elevators, so we didn't let him forget that for a while."

Funny ... in my fourth grade district spelling bee, I missed the word "commercial." My dad has worked on Commercial Street all my life.

Joey and I shared a love of words, a love of sports and love for many things as sports writers at the Sun. We shared a love for politics, human rights and chocolate chip cookies. We did things differently, sure, and had different passions, of course.

But we've been teammates since I plopped down in this desk 10 feet away from his on June 5, 2007, in the Sun sports department as a recent college graduate. Me saving him from covering auto sports (my passion, not his), and him schooling me on western Kentucky sports lore, one patient word at a time.

As a high school student, Joey translated his love for words into profit by way of younger brother Mike.

"He would get Mike to work on his car and fix it, but Joey would write his papers for school," Jan Fosko said, "and he would ask Mike if he wanted an 'A' or a 'B.'"

He had a love for numbers, too, his photographic memory storing away statistics like a football coach stores up trick plays. Need to know what 346 divided by 27 was? Joey would have the answer top of mind.

"Me and my buddies would pass around a calculator, and he'd beat you," Joey's father, Joe, said. "Even square roots, where all you had to do was push a button. We used to do it all the time."

Must be why he beat me on deadline so many times with all those Friday night football stat lines.

Joey left us too soon, but if ever there was a time to go for the lover of all things sports, the summer doldrums filled with vacation time and the dreaded desk work was it. And what a glorious final year he had.

In the 2012-2013 season alone, he attended Kentucky state championships in golf, football, basketball, track and field, tennis and baseball where our local athletes competed.

The Lone Oak graduate helped chronicle the Purple Flash's final year before the McCracken County consolidation, an event that had Joey worried for the shrinking opportunities for local athletes.

And on Friday, he was able to cover the West Kentucky All-Stars football game against Southern Illinois - his final football game and final byline penned for the Sun.

Joey, it's been an honor and a privilege working with you. I don't know how many times I'd be walking out the sports room door, purse on my shoulder, keys in my hand, midnight ready to strike, and you would call out after a long night's work, "Hey, one last thing ... ."

Joey's mother, Jan, joked Monday that her son always needed to have the last word in an argument. Which was true in most cases when talking with Joey.

And perhaps it's only appropriate we let him have the last word here, too. Joey was voted Best Media Personality in the Sun's Reader's Choice Awards this year, and in the special publication thanked the readers for voting for him.

"It is an honor to chronicle the exploits of local athletes and sporting events, and I strive every day to maintain that trust that is placed on me," Joey said. "No one enjoys covering local sports more than I do and I hope that is reflected in my work."

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