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A LESSON IN MORTALITY
Frank Deford
May 18, 1987
Some personal reflections on the death of Gus Johnson
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May 18, 1987

A Lesson In Mortality

Some personal reflections on the death of Gus Johnson

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After the competition, Gus was level and fair, gentle even. Maybe it helped that a knockout lady was surely awaiting him. But let's not be superior—the excesses of the good life didn't do him in. Stupid old brain cancer decked Johnson.

The odds in life—fate—are dished out in lightning strikes and automobile accidents. The fragility of life can be ironic. It seems impossible that a body so magic, so potent, so unconquerable could have been cut down by something merely fickle within it. "Don't worry about me, I'm going to be O.K.," Johnson reassured friends in the weeks before he died. "I've made my peace."

But his death has made me so fearful, so vulnerable. This was the man, bold and vital, who was in charge of my week.

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