Nothing life ever so unfairly threw at Herb Wyre could remove the smile from his face.
And neither could death, Friday morning at 10 a.m.
Our Valley is diminished this weekend by the passing of the longtime Palmdale High track and field coach.
Fittingly, the Herb Wyre Relays are an annual tribute to a man who was an expert in sprinting, in distance running, and most of all, in overcoming hurdles.
The real baton that was passed in the Herb Wyre Relays was a set of life lessons to help the sons and daughters of 21st Century Palmdale and Littlerock handle life as courageously and gracefully as Herb Wyre did.
Wyre was a softspoken man.
You often had to lean in to better hear what he was saying.
And whether he was discussing the mechanics of the sprinting stride or the calibration of steps to clear one hurdle after another, it was precious and invaluable wisdom.
That relentless optimism and seemingly eternal smile belied the toughness of the man behind it.
He could have just easily been known as Herb Barbed Wyre, for the things and the people he endured throughout his life.
Anyone who predates the Civil Rights Movement knows how far America has come in the 54 years since the passage of the Civil Rights Act.
Herb Wyre could recall a time when blacks in the Valley were directed to Sun Village in a shameful era of segregation that is so far beneath the Palmdale and Littlerock of 2019.
He could recall it, because he lived it.
But just like another extraordinary athlete and humanitarian I was so blessed to know, Don Newcombe, the bigotry and hatred and darkness bounced off Herb Wyre like bullets off Superman’s chest.
They knew the hate.
They endured the prejudice.
But they never let it define them as much as it defined the low lifes who generated it.
Herb Wyre never let the toxicity touch his immortal soul.
The soul whose radiance shone through every day in that endearing smile.
The soul that now shines in heaven.
What Herb Wyre was the greatest shining example of was perseverance.
In track, distance runners need perseverance when those temptations of cowardice become so strong that you want to quit.
Herb Wyre never quit on believing the best in everyone around him.
He always saw over the heads of the haters to a horizon of hope and promise beyond the disappointment of the moment.
He lived all these virtues and values.
And we are so grateful that he passed on so many of them to our current day neighbors.
In his very subtle, gentle way, Herb Wyre challenged each and every one of us, every day of his life.
So many of us got off at the exit ramps of bitterness, retaliation, cynicism, anger and disillusionment, to name just a few.
Settling for being less than we could be has more exit ramps than the 14 Freeway.
But Herbert Wyre never did.
He may have been battered and bruised, bloodied even, and gasping for breath.
But in the words and deeds of a man he lived by seven days a week, not just Sunday, Saint Paul the Apostle, he ran the good race and fought the good fight.
So now we will only see Herb Wyre in the radiance of the sunrise each morning, with its promise and possibility for the new day.
Today can be better than yesterday.
Up until 10 a.m. Friday, Herb Wyre proved it has to be.