by Kelli Lindley, Director of Athletics
On the morning of April 7, 2017, I received a message that Carl (Tiny) Bellamy passed away during the night. Even though I knew Tiny’s health was failing, the reality that I would never again be able to give him a hug or talk hoops or take him a hot dog during a baseball game was crushing. Before that moment, I hadn’t realized how much Tiny meant to me as well as to hundreds of student-athletes, coaches and staff throughout the years of NNU Athletics.
As NNU’s director of athletics and former women’s basketball coach, I have had the privilege of interacting with many amazingly supportive alumni and fans. It’s always been a great encouragement to see the way they cheer for the student-athletes, give a donation where needed or prepare a meal for a team when the university cafeteria is closed. But Tiny took loving NNU Athletics to a level that will go down in the record books.
Tiny had an uncanny ability to sense where there was a need with any of the NNU student-athletes. He and his late wife, Mary, endowed athletic scholarships, gave donations when uniforms were falling apart, invited teams over to their home to enjoy barbequed hamburgers from the beef he raised, and I can only imagine the amount of time he spent on his knees praying for the university. Tiny’s impact on NNU Athletics was far-reaching, but the part of his legacy I believe will be remembered most was his unwavering commitment to showing up.
As long as I knew Tiny, it was his mission to go to every home contest and offer advice to coaches if they needed a little! I watched Tiny sit at softball games in the blazing heat, heckle officials during basketball games, laugh with joy when the soccer team scored and yell at the baseball umpires while the rain poured down. You could tell he had a deep love for the student-athletes and coaches. Tiny’s presence meant so much to so many of us!
A few weeks before Tiny passed, I saw that influence at his 92nd birthday party. NNU Athletics had planned on having a party at one of the baseball games but had to cancel when Tiny was too weak to attend. So, in the same way Tiny showed up for NNU Athletics, his friends, family and coaches went to his home to celebrate his birthday there. Friends took turns sharing stories about him that brought about a lot of laughter and a few tears.
One particularly meaningful story was told by Jeff Kinneeveauk (’97), a former basketball student-athlete who had grown up in Alaska. Between teasing Tiny about his blunt and sometimes opinionated manner, Jeff shared that if it wasn’t for Tiny’s nudging and encouragement, he never would have come to NNU, met his wife, gone on to be a successful businessman or developed into the man of God that he is today. What is most amazing is that there are so many former student-athletes who could tell similar stories about Tiny’s impact on their lives.
On that Friday, when word spread throughout NNU Athletics that Tiny had passed, there were many messages exchanged, fondly reminiscing about him as we prepared to compete in the upcoming track and field, baseball and softball events.
I think one friend put it best when she texted the coaches, “He loved you all so much. I’m sure he will still be watching the NNU events this weekend—just with a better view.”
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