Tuesday, April 16, 2024

‘We loved this man’

Larry Ruvo looks back on the essence of The Greatest.

As told to Kimberly Bailey-Tureaud

I thought I knew Muhammad through his career, as a fan, and later in life getting to know him personally when Keep Memory Alive was preparing to honor him for his 70th birthday. But I saw the essence of the man when I visited the Muhammad Ali Center.

During my tour, I walked into a dark room, the motion detector went off, the lights went on, and there appeared a replica of a lunch counter. A recording came on that said, “You know we don’t serve your kind.” The story goes that after having that real-life experience, Muhammad went home, took his Olympic medal and threw it in the river.

Even as a young man, he had the resolve and determination to follow his beliefs no matter what — and to question a society that valued what it could take from him more than what he could give. Until the end, that’s exactly what he did: he followed his beliefs no matter what, and helped so many people of different races, creeds, and beliefs along the way.

When remembering Muhammad, we must not forget his wife Lonnie — who, in my opinion, was a true champion as a caregiver. The love and 24-hour care Lonnie provided Muhammad allowed him to live his final years with dignity and respect, which is what he so deserved. Muhammad: you’re gone but you will never be forgotten. We loved this man. We loved what he stood for, and all of us at Keep Memory Alive have an emptiness with the Champ no longer with us.

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