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Cavaliers guard Jordan Clarkson was in attendance. So was teammate Collin Sexton, who only knew Fred McLeod for maybe a year. Larry Nance Jr., an Akron native who grew up listening to McLeod’s broadcasts on FOX Sports Ohio, was also there.
Five days after McLeod died of a heart attack at the age of 67, a modest crowd of family, friends and co-workers celebrated his life at the Bay Presbyterian Church in Bay Village.
Large pictures of McLeod adorned the stage. One with wife Beth and their dogs. Another with longtime broadcast partner Austin Carr. Still another with Cavs owner Dan Gilbert.
Each seemed to exemplify who McLeod really was — someone who loved the Cavaliers, someone who cherished his wife and children, someone who understood the value of a smile and who made it a point to serve.
It was also a celebration of McLeod’s work and dedication to the team. Cavs employees in attendance all wore championship rings from the 2016 season.
“His voice and his tears will always be the soundtrack of that championship,” said Mark Tumney, lead pastor at Bay Presbyterian.
Tumney shared some brief stories of McLeod’s life, intertwining a message of Christian faith, and how McLeod illustrated that walk.
Others praised McLeod’s strong bond with his wife, the type of friendship that every couple strives for but so few seem to achieve. Fred and Beth, a TV weatherperson for Cleveland FOX 8, clearly flourished.
McLeod was born and raised in Strongsville and called Cavs games since 2006. He served as the Detroit Pistons’ play-by-play man for 22 years before that.
Brent Valenti, FOX Sports Ohio producer of Cavaliers telecasts, recalled a trip to the White House after the championship season. The White House had no WiFi. This concerned the forever devoted McLeod.
“He asked, ‘How will I watch Beth’s weather hit?'” Valenti said, smiling.
And there were indeed plenty of smiles on this day. Lots of tears, too. But most of all, the observance of a life that touched so many, from athletes making millions of dollars to those working blue-collar jobs — whose lone dose of solace sometimes only comes from watching games on TV after a long day on their feet.
McLeod meant something to everyone.
“Few people know his work ethic was shaped by his father when working at his father’s jewelry store,” Tumney said. “Few people know he recently drove to Canton to change the battery in his mother’s beeping fire alarm.”
Few people know, but few would be surprised. That was just McLeod being himself.
“God wants to help us live out everything we were created to be,” Tumney said.
Those who knew McLeod best will tell you that is how he tried to live; and how he will forever be remembered.