Mary Edna Lee ( June 3, 1928- March 22, 2015)

Last night after the completion of the NCAA wrestling championships I went back to work. With passengers in my cab my sister called me to inform me my grandmother Mary Edna Lee ( nee Wilkerson) passed away. Her death is a tremendous loss to me and my family. She gave so much to so many people raising two generations of children. I don’t even know if I would be alive if it wasn’t for her and my grandfather.

A loving God-fearing woman my grandmother spent her early years in the Bootheel of Southeastern Missouri near the Arkansas border. Her father had come from Oklahoma and her mother from Alabama. As a teenager the family moved to St. Louis and settled in what is now called Old North St Louis near Crown Candy.

My grandmother never was able to attend much school and went to work at a young age at the old St. Louis Dairy. It was there she met my grandfather Ivan Loyal Lee who had just returned from World War II in the Marines. Married in 1946 they raised three children. My late Uncle Jimmy, my Aunt Sharon, and Don ( my father). Later they would raise me and my sisters Jill and Jamie.

A church lady my grandmother was a member of Bellefontaine Baptist Church since the 1960’s. Her Christian faith ran deep and was very important to her. However, she never looked at me in any way other than love after I converted to Islam at the age of 17.

She was an active and talkative woman who loved to chat up strangers. She was very curious about the world. I’ve traveled the world and met thousands of people but nobody has influenced me more than her and my grandfather. So much of the foundation of my worldview and politics I got from them. She was a staunch old school Roosevelt Democrat who was concerned with helping those in need. I not only soaked up her love but grew-up on her stories of old St. Louis, streetcars, the Great Depression and the Bootheel.

At these times you always have regrets and I definitely have a lot. I caused her so much worry over the years. In and out of jail, baby mama drama, moving around the country, not returning phone calls all kind of stuff. One of my biggest regrets is my kids didn’t get to know her as well as my sisters kids did. You just have to live with that stuff and try and do better.

I’ll always remember her voice and her singing the the taste of her cooking a

image
My grandparents in 1946
image
My grandparents at their 50th anniversary

image

image
Ezdehar Husein ( Ezzie Husein ) the mother of my expected child with my grandma.

nd so many memories. I’m not a guy really open with my emotions but in her last days I got to kiss her and tell her I loved her and I’m happy I was able to do that.

image

image

image

Scenes from NCAA Wrestling Championships in St. Louis

image

Chael Sonnen on the panel at the fanfest. image

Dan Gable presenting an award to a high school wrestling coach. image

Scenes from the Union Station workout areaimage

image

image
Opening session
image
Umar Lee with Ed Ruth after his victory over Jake Herbert
image
With my high school teammate the great Demetrius Jordan
image
The great John Smith all smiles after his son Joe Joe wins at the Missouri Border Brawl

image

image

image

Missouri Wrestling Hall of Fame: Induct Charlie Sherertz, Sr.

( I spoke with Jerry Middleton of the Missouri Wrestling Hall of Fame. He told me no one on the board doesn’t recognize the tremendous accomplishments of Coach Sherertz. Middleton also stated while there are issues and complications there is support for a Sherertz induction. ).

Last night I had a great time attending the Missouri Border Brawl with my former teammate and one of the best wrestlers to ever come out of St. Louis my friend Demetrius Jordan. In a conversation we were told that there is a group that has consistently fought against Coach Charlie Sherertz, Sr. being inducted into the Missouri Wrestling Hall of Fame.

If the Missouri Wrestling Hall of Fame doesn’t include Coach Sherertz it needs to go out of business. No disrespect to any inductees: but a glimpse of the members shows people without a fraction of the accomplishments of Coach Sherertz.

Let’s remember who Charlie Sherertz is. He is a man who started a wrestling program at Northwest High School in the Walnut Park neighborhood of North St Louis. It was a tough school with bad race relations, high poverty in a bad neighborhood. The program started in a classroom. There was no little league program. Within a couple of years Coach Sherertz built Northwest into a powerhouse winning five state titles.

Coach Sherertz then goes to Columbus, Nebraska and wins four state championships. Returning to the St. Louis area he takes over the program at McClure North. It was a program that had never been elite. His first year as head coach the team finishes second at state. The next three years the team is state champions.

Most of the individual state champions at McClure North never wrestled before high school. Many came from broken homes. Coach Sherertz once said he deliberately tried to reach these kids.

This brings me to a story. One day a friend left his notebook in class. This was a wrestler who was going through tough times at home. Being nosy I opened up the notebook. It was full of Coach Sherertz quotes and drawings of him.

In an interview with my old neighbor Dan Dunn he once said he wouldn’t have graduated from high school without Coach Sherertz and there were many more just like him.

Towards the end of his career Coach Sherertz made a mistake. A minor mistake. It wasn’t rape or murder. Because of this mistake a group has fought to keep Coach Sherertz out of the Missouri Wrestling Hall of Fame. I’ll argue it’s not about the mistakes. We all make mistakes and if we didn’t there would be no need in seeking God’s forgiveness. These are bitter and jealous men envious of the success of Coach Sherertz. Mixed in I’m sure are a few bigots who never liked the pivotal-role Coach Sherertz played in integrating wrestling in the state of Missouri.

I encourage anyone who wrestled for Coach Sherertz or knew him to contact the Missouri Wrestling Hall of Fame in support of his induction.

Remember the snowy days when he was there to pick you up in his van for practice. Now be there for him as he is an elderly man struggling with Alzheimer’s disease in need of this honor while he’s still alive.