RIP, Brad Stoffel

Two weeks ago, in the middle of the workday, I received a call from Brad Stoffel’s mother, Evelyn, conveying the sad news that Brad had died of natural causes at the age of 57.

Who was Brad Stoffel and why did the news of his death make me so melancholy?

Well, as I told Evelyn over the phone, my tennis rivalry with was “the dominant narrative of my childhood.” For years, Brad and I battled for the top ranking for our age group in Texas and at one stage he beat me fifteen times in a row. Several years ago I wrote a post about lessons learned from a losing streak that long and that painful, as well as a later reversal of fortune and standing. You can read that here.

Since that post went public, Brad and I had reconnected and sent each other text messages every week. In fact, I had sent him one on the first day of the US Open … which, sadly, I now know he never received. Brad remained witty, irreverent, and curious until the very end. From long distance (he lived in Phoenix), he supported the ministry of Good Shepherd as well as some of its special projects. On some of our Saturday texts, I would tell him my bottom line for the next day’s sermon and he’d usually respond with “#*!#, that’s good!” Only Brad.

His obituary described him as larger than life. Which I suppose is why his death leaves me feeling more than a little hollow.