SLOAN COLUMN: Momma Loa was not a Yankees fan
The text message arrived at 6:41 p.m. on Sunday. It contained these words:
“Things have gone south quickly and we are headed to St. Thomas.
” I knew it was just a matter of time
. My stepmother, Loa Sloan, was one tough old broad. If she were here, she’d tell you so.
Momma Loa battled Stage 4 cancer for years, undergoing rounds of chemo and radiation at least two times. It began with breast cancer. She had a mastectomy and wore her “fake boob” until it literally rubbed her the wrong way. She then went, in her words, “sans tit.” She didn’t care.
The cancer eventually spread to her brain, then her eye, then her lungs, until finally her lymph nodes. It all took a tremendous toll on her physically, but she refused to let it get the best of her. She was a fighter in the truest sense of the word.
The toughest of bodies, however, can only take so much. On Sunday, Momma Loa took her last breath. She was 74.
Loa did not lead an easy life. Her first marriage was not a good one. She endured verbal and physical abuse. She lost her first son at a very young age. Her daughter Cheryl died in her mid 30s. Angelo, her other son, died in his early 50s. Loa buried all three of her children. That simply is not supposed to happen.
She married my dad some time in the early 1980s. They lived in numerous cities just outside of Nashville, Tenn. Loa lived in Nashville most of her adult life. Pop grew up two hours away in Paris. The two of them met at a bar one night and were pretty much inseparable ever since.
Pop suffered at least two serious strokes in 2017 and has been in an assisted living facility ever since. Before COVID-19 arrived a year ago, Loa visited Pop nearly every day. That was no easy task, considering her health. Her love for him superseded any pain or hardship she had to endure.
The last week has been flooded of memories of Momma Loa, most all of them good ones. There are few times when I deservedly incurred her wrath. Those times are not so pleasant to remember, but they are good memories all the same.
Here’s one interesting memory.
One of Pop and Loa’s favorite restaurants in Nashville was a steakhouse called The Stockyard. Downstairs at The Stockyard was The Bullpen Lounge. The Stockyard and Bullpen attracted a well-to-do crowd and it was not all that uncommon to come across a celebrity.
One night in early December of 1989, they were hanging out at The Bullpen. Loa noticed a gentleman sitting by himself at the end of the bar. He looked sad and lonely, according to Loa. While Pop was talking with some friends, Loa decided of go talk to the stranger who appeared to be crying in his beer.
She introduced herself to the man and they struck up a conversation. His disposition, Loa recalled, brightened considerably as they talked about nothing of great importance. He was simply glad to have someone with whom to talk.
At some point, the man said to Loa, “You don’t really know who I am, do you?”
Loa’s nonplussed response was, “Am I supposed to?”
“My name is Billy Martin,” he said. “I played and managed the New York Yankees.
” Not a baseball fan, Loa was not the least bit impressed. She had no clue that Martin was a Yankee legend of sorts. To her, he was just a lonely guy who looked like he needed a friend. She was that friend.
My dad eventually came over and joined the conversation. Before they parted ways, Loa remembered I was a baseball fan and asked her new friend if she could get his autograph and if he would please sign it to me. He gladly agreed.
I received this letter from my dad the day after Christmas, 1989:
“Hey, Bob. How’s it going this great day after Xmas? I’m at work and it’s a little slow. We had a wonderful Xmas. All the kids really loved it. So did mom and dad.
“Woke up this a.m. to hear about Billy Martin’s death. Loa and I had spent about three hours with him about three weeks ago. Our common ground was that he knew and liked Marshall Fox and knew his son, Tim.
“When we got ready to pay our bill he gave Loa a $1,000 bill with his picture on it and said, ‘this should cover it.’ We all laughed.
“He was a very nice man. I had no idea he was 61. Anyway, here is what he sent to you. We love you, Al and Loa.
” Folded up inside the letter was a cocktail napkin with the following inscription: “To Bobby, best of luck. Billy Martin. Yankees.
” Just one of the many great memories of my second mom I will always cherish. I’m going miss you very much, sweet lady.