Mike Tos always offered the same response when asked why he'd dared to miss two football games involving Conwell-Egan High (nee Bishop Egan).
"They were away games," he'd say, in his ever-present monotone. "Reading. Allentown. I was in sixth grade. Give me a break."
Those lapses occurred in Egan's first varsity season, 1958. They were never repeated.
There are folks who like, even love, a school's athletic program, and then there are those such as Tos - consumed is somehow inadequate. Through 50 seasons, he missed only those two football games and, over time, became a passionate supporter of all things C-E.
Tos died yesterday at age 60. Chuck Knowles, a close friend and the school's former coach/athletic director, said personnel at Lower Bucks Hospital told him Tos' heart had failed, probably in response to generally deteriorating health; he'd been fighting a leg infection for more than a year.
Tos, who did not drive, was literally a walking encyclopedia on Egan football.
Off the top of his head, he would recount details - exact dates, weather conditions, time showing on the scoreboard at key moments - about any game in school history, then flash a look that seemed to say, "Give me a real task."
In the offseason, he could recite, immediately, how many days, hours and seconds remained until the start of training camp.
He once shrugged off his memory feats by saying, "If I'm interested in something, I can rattle off facts about it for days, months, years . . . If I'm not, you could stand there and talk to me about it 24 hours a day and I'd shut you off like you didn't exist."
A product of Egan ('65) and La Salle College, he worked as a young man as the night manager for a fast-food chain.
"That's a very perilous position if you want to watch night football," he said. "[The chain] would change area supervisors like some people change socks. And they kept very poor records. A lot of my 'grandmothers' died. I went through 11 of them."
Lately, his C-E grid duties had been limited to keeping stats. He also ran the scoreboard at indoor events and provided non-stop help for the athletes and coaches. He formerly served as an assistant athletic director, and no chore was too menial. He washed uniforms, distributed/repaired equipment, lined fields, ordered transporation, handed out snacks . . .
He was a champion, dry-humor cube-buster, but did so in a way that never offended. Thousands of Egan athletes would tell you this: Getting to know Mike Tos was one of the highlights of their time at the school.
News of his passing was announced yesterday morning. Star receiver Ryan Golin was among those who went home for the day.
"We loved him. He was a part of our team through everything," Golin said. "When we heard the news, every one of the football players' eyes just filled with tears. We all thought he was an awesome guy, and a genius for remembering every game he attended.
"After hard practices, he knew just what to say and what story to tell to lighten the mood."
Michael Marano, an assistant principal, said the school is raising funds to erect a memorial in Tos' honor.
"We're shocked. Upset. Just devasated by Mike's death," Marano said. "He loved our kids. And loved our athletic programs."
Said Knowles: "You rarely see someone who's so loyal to a place, and its people. Egan was his passion, and he was true to it, almost to a fault. He dedicated his whole life to Egan.
"I met Mike in '76. His help was invaluable, and, over time, he became like a part of my family. My kids used to follow him around like a puppy.
"All he wanted was for the coaches at Egan to be dedicated. As long as he felt you were putting the kids first, he was behind you. Among those who worked with him, there's no one who wouldn't laud the guy."
Recent years had not been kind to Tos. Among those who reached out and welcomed him to live with his family for close to 2 years was Carl Slaton, father of star running back Steve Slaton, now nationally famous for his exploits at West Virginia.
"I was raised to give people a helping hand," Carl Slaton said. "I've raised Steve that way. Mike was so supportive of my son. He lived and bled C-E. All he needed was for someone to love him back."
From West Virginia, Steve Slaton said via cell phone: "Mike's loyalty to Conwell-Egan cannot be measured. They could not repay him for all he did for that school. He cared much more about that school's well-being than he did his own. And I can't thank him enough for how much he helped me.
"Mike was a good-spirited guy. I loved talking football with him. And he was so loyal. To learn that, all you needed to do was spend 1 day in his life."
Funeral plans are incomplete. *