Much kindness, and many grandchildren

It seems a lifetime ago that I met Miki Ah You, Jr., at the Autostade in Montreal, and since the stadium disappeared four decades ago and Junior Ah You now has 43 grandchildren, I guess it is a lifetime ago. He is the kindest, gentlest professional athlete I’ve ever known, which may seem a stretch for a football player whose job was to treat quarterbacks the way we treat wishbones from the holiday turkey.

Ah You was a Hall of Fame defensive end for the Alouettes for what at the time was the golden age of football in Montreal — two Grey Cups, five Eastern championships. He was a character of generosity in many ways. For one, his Alouettes contracts included plane tickets from Hawaii for his family (wife, children and assorted others), and it was always non-negotiable.

This is traditionally a month many Canadian snowbirds see Hawaii, which has been Ah You’s home since his family left Samoa. His welcome mat in Laie is there for just about anybody who crossed his path — unless it was his path to a quarterback — which I know from personal experience.

Soon after that interview in the dank and dingy Autostade, a sports photographer named Aussie Whiting took me into his circle of friends, which included Junior. Whiting spent winters in Hawaii, staying with the Ah Yous, and he frequently opened the door to tourists, with their approval. That opened the door to my now 50-year “friendship” with Junior.

And I was not unique. However, Junior Ah You is.

The first time we visited in Hawaii, he wanted me to go “night diving.” I later found that it meant swimming in waves crashing against rocks while trying to spear fish, so I was lucky to have declined…and to be alive. Ah You was immune to fear, having performed with a flaming sword at the Polynesian Cultural Center where his wife Almira was a dancer until she became mother to six kids. Without Junior, we’d likely never have seen Hawaii’s most popular attraction, nor the legendary island crooner Don (“Tiny Bubbles” ) Ho.

Junior’s warmth and generosity goes far beyond the practical. At the barbecue on his driveway, I watched him invite random people walking by to come for dinner. I saw his “hang loose” attitude applied as a father, allowing his six kids to fall asleep every night on the living room floor doing homework, and then stay there until morning.

The last time I saw him was in 2016. Accompanied by elderly friends, we poked around this small town on the Oahu shoreline until I found him, then dragged our largely unimpressed companions from the car for reasons unknown to them. Junior was Junior, warmly welcoming and charming people he’d never met and would never meet again.

Ah You told me he’d never have played football had he known what he learned from the movie “Concussion” yet five of their six children played (exception: Tamara, the daughter) as did at least one grandson…and maybe more.

When you have 43 grandchildren, it’s hard enough just remembering all their names.