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Remembering a Trusted Friend

Life is fragile.

That's not just a cliche.

It's reality.

Saturday, the world lost a really good man when Phil Albert was taken from us at the young age of 48.

Phil never worked full-time for the Clayton News Daily and Henry Daily Herald, but he served as a stringer in the sports department for almost a decade.

He had a background in sports journalism and was comfortable covering a high school soccer game, youth-league contests, basketball shoot-outs or spending cool and crisp fall Friday nights in the trenches, where he could let his journalistic talents shine as a high school football reporter.

Phil had several passions in his life, starting with his family, that included his mom, Junita, sisters, Anita, Teresa, and Marie, brothers, Jerry and Thomas, nieces, Danielle and Mariah, and nephew, Isaiah.

He also cheered hard for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. He longed for the days when the Irish would again challenge for a national title in football, or earn a trip to the Final Four in basketball.

Outside of sports, Phil had a love for music, and often displayed his talents at karaoke bars. I never saw Phil perform, but I'm told he loved to sing everything from Frank Sinatra to classic rock and roll. I'm also told he had a terrific voice.

Those who knew Phil, quickly learned about his easy-going personality. He had a hearty laugh, and got a long with everyone.

In all the years I knew Phil, I never saw him mad. He was always more concerned about his family and friends more than himself.

His co-workers at the Neighbor Newspapers, where he worked as a courier, shut down the offices yesterday afternoon to attend his funneral, which was really a celebration of his short, but wonderful life.

Sandy Springs Chapel was filled with family and friends still trying to come to terms with the death of a young man who touched so many lives, so many different ways.

Although Phil wasn't on the full-time payroll here, he had a large presence in our sports department. He was somebody I could turn to in a crisis, and vent to when things got a little tense at deadline.

He spent more than 15 years covering sports full-time before deciding to try something more 9-5, when it came to his regular job, but the journalism fires that all newspaper people feel still burned inside him, and when he came aboard as a stringer, we hit a "home run."

It was a perfect fit for all of us. Phil was able to keep his love of the business alive, and we had our "go-to-guy." The man got up early for his real job, but never let us down when we needed him to cover a local game.

Just last week, Phil and I drove up to Montgomery to attend the wedding of former Clayton News Daily/Henry Daily Herald sports writer Anthony Rhoades. The miles quickly rolled off as we discussed everything from politics, to who belonged in baseball's Hall of Fame.

We also wondered out loud if Georgia was ever going to get around to hiring a defensive coordinator.

Phil was comfortable talking about a wide variety of subjects.

With Phil, you had an honest, hard-working, talented reporter, but for anybody who knew him, you had a good and trustworthy friend.

Doug Gorman is sports editor of the Clayton News Daily and Henry Daily Herald