Coach Bell was one of my first baseball heroes. I remember reading about him in the sports page when he played baseball for MSU, hitting a game-winning grand slam against Mizzou. A couple years later, I played ball on the same team as his younger brother, Darrin, but never met Coach Bell. After my family moved back to Springfield in 2012, Coach Bell and I became friends. Mere weeks before he passed away due to complications from ALS, I interviewed him.
“Baseball has taught me about cooperating with others. It’s not all about me, but working together with the entire team to achieve our goals. I loved competing, working hard, and learning about overcoming adversity when things don’t go your way. I was fortunate to coach for 27 years and hopefully passed on some of these lessons to my players.
“My advice now, what I have learned living with ALS, is the importance of taking each day as it comes, being happy and enjoying the moments you have, because you never know what the next day will bring. Finding ways to live life to the fullest every day is crucial, for each day in and of itself is truly a gift.
“The hardest part of life now is not being able to do the everyday things that everyone else seemingly takes for granted. Just like baseball, living with ALS is 90% mental and 10% physical. Taking this approach has made things easier in pushing through the daily struggles and obstacles.”
Today is Coach Bell’s birthday. He would have been 54.
His widow, Kim, has become a dear friend. Since his passing, she started a new, phenomenal wedding venue called Belamour on the north side of Springfield.
“I love the idea of people coming here to express their love to one another. I know it sounds cheesy.”
Howard constantly encouraged Kim to chase her own dreams, maybe start her own Bed & Breakfast.
“I’ve always been a party planner, too, it’s just a part of me. About two or so years after he died, another wedding venue reached out to me, and that’s what really sparked an interest to go ahead and start, to create my own space. On weekends, I’d drive around looking and dreaming and I happened to see this land while checking out another location. This place was so overgrown, all you could see was the top of the barn. But it wasn’t for sale, so I took some pictures and kept looking.
“One thing Howard did was he always drove home a different way from wherever he was. He was always exploring, going new routes. A couple months had passed and I know it sounds crazy, but I felt him pulling me down Farm Road 94. And there was a For Sale sign in the yard. I was the only person interested in the property. Everybody told me I was crazy. They were seriously worried about me. But after Howard’s passing, Belamour gave me a new passion, a new purpose, and a new dream.”
Belamour is visually stunning, absolutely gorgeous. Fifty acres and a house with a basement and two barns. The barn used for weddings was raised in 1891. Kaylea once played violin at Belamour for a ceremony. I went to the wedding just to give Kim a hug.
Kim and I met at Belamour today to play catch and tell stories.
We talked about the different memorials around town.
The red chair at Kickapoo.
The scholarship and naming of the sports complex at Glendale.
And his induction into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame this year on May 24.
“That caught me completely by surprise.”
I asked what she thought Howard would think of Catch 365, and Kim started laughing.
“Howard had a chair he sat in in the garage, an old office chair. Even when the ALS progressed, he’d sit in that chair and watch ball games. His nephew wanted to play catch, he was around 3 years old, so they rolled the ball on the garage floor to each other. Everyone in the neighborhood wanted to play with Howard. The doorbell would ring and they’d ask, ‘Can your husband play?’
“I think Howard would love this, he’d think it’s pretty cool. If he could play catch every day, he would.”
I then asked if he’d have any advice for parenting two daughters.
“Like I said, he spent a lot of time in that garage.”
Yogi Berra once said, “Love is the most important thing in the world, but baseball is pretty good, too.”
Tip of the hat to both Howard and Kim Bell for their story of love, baseball, the hard work necessary to make dreams come true, and living each day to the fullest.