Commentary: Here's to Joe Bell, 'the 92-Year-Old Kid'

December 27, 2013|By Erik Patterson
  • Erik Patterson (boy in No. 51 jersey) is coached by his stepdad Joe Bell about 26 years ago. Bell, a longtime Daily Pilot columnist, died in November.
Erik Patterson (boy in No. 51 jersey) is coached by his… (Courtesy Sherry…)

My stepdad, Joseph N. Bell, was buried Dec. 11 in his hometown, Decatur, Ind., alongside family members dating back to the Civil War. The cemetery was covered in a beautiful layer of white snow and the sun came out as our group of nine sat under a tent in 20-degree weather.

The graveside ceremony included a soldier playing "Taps" and a young funeral home director with an amazing voice singing "Amazing Grace." Then, as Joe had requested, we formed a circle, held hands and sang "Take Me Out to the Ball Game."

Before we went to the cemetery, we spent an hour listening to and singing some of Joe's favorite songs and sharing stories and reflections about a man who touched our lives in many different ways over many years.

This is what I read at the service:

When I was 11, Joe would refer to me as "the 11-Year-Old Kid" in his household in his weekly column in the Los Angeles Times. I loved it. I felt famous. I wanted to be the 11-Year-Old Kid forever.


Then when I turned 12, there was some debate because I'd become a character in his column by then, and that character was named the 11-Year-Old Kid. It was part of my branding. So we talked about it and we decided that he would continue calling me the 11-Year-Old Kid, which a few of his readers noticed. He got several letters asking how long the 11-Year-Old Kid was going to be 11.

By the time I was 13 and still being called the 11-Year-Old Kid, it had gotten to be a bit of a scandal. People were upset. They thought Joe was being disrespectful. One woman wrote a letter to The Times, saying: "Your reference to the '11-Year-Old Kid' when writing about the child in your household I feel denotes a lack of respect for the younger generation. How can we expect children to feel (and show) respect for the older generation when we do not show the same for them? Psychological 'abuse' can be subtle, but it is always perceived by the child."

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