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2016-11-22 13:04:00 CET

More Than Sports: A referee until the very end

Obituary of Dan Apol

Imagine the picture of a man in his best age, who is climbing up the staircase to heaven. Suddenly he meet the eyes of a big dog, a Mastiff. He recognizes the dog as the one he lost years ago and suddenly his eyes fill up with tears and a bright smile is flashing over his face. Dan Apol and his dog Artimus are united again.

Now our eyes are filled with tears and no smile lights up our faces as we think of the great one we lost. FIVB Referee Dan Apol passed away last Wednesday. “Perhaps he was called home or called up by some higher power,” his best friend, FIVB referee Keith Murlless says.

“RIP my brother. You are a shining light for all of us,” - Referee Richard Casutt from New Zealand Credit: Richard Casutt“RIP my brother. You are a shining light for all of us,” - Referee Richard Casutt from New Zealand Credit: Richard Casutt

Dan was just 44 years old. That’s way too early to die for a man who had so much to live for. Dan knew it better: “Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments, that take our breath away.” This quote is written on the staircase of Dan and Bonnie Apol’s place.

A man with a big heart and a strong will

“He was a friend, a brother, a perfect roommate, a man, who leaves footprints,” his friend FIVB referee Jose Padron says. Dan was a straight man with a great sense of justice. “He was opinionated, but in a good way,” FIVB media delegate Tim Simmons says. “He was always a joy to be around, even when he made a ‘bad call’, which were few and far between.”

FIVB photographer Conny Kurth once discovered what it means to start an argument with Dan. “At the Grand Slam in The Hague, we had a big fight,” she tells us. “He wanted me to leave the court, but I didn’t want to go. The match could not begin and we had to call for the referee delegate to mediate,” Conny laughs. For a whole year they didn’t talk to each other, but at the 2015 World Championships in The Hague, they made up again. “From that moment on, our relationship was even better, I liked him very much.”

“Dan (center) has been my classmate and friend since we start together at FIVB course 2004 in Cagliari. The memories of many wonderful days in common provides comfort, and in my mind and heart, I am still with him, somewhere at the court,” says FIVB referee Drago Peslac (third from the right). Credit: Drago Peslac.“Dan (center) has been my classmate and friend since we start together at FIVB course 2004 in Cagliari. The memories of many wonderful days in common provides comfort, and in my mind and heart, I am still with him, somewhere at the court,” says FIVB referee Drago Peslac (third from the right). Credit: Drago Peslac.

The players liked him: “A very nice and relaxed guy, on and off court,” says Olympic and Swatch World Tour Finals gold medalist Laura Ludwig. “I remember Dan told me during the Olympics in Rio with a wink that I could play for the USA and at the AVP Tour after 2016,” Britta Büthe tells us. The German national player also has an American passport. “Every time that Karla and I saw that he was scheduled for our game we were happy and said to each other ‘That has to be a good sign’. I cannot believe that I won’t see him again at any beach volleyball court on the world.”

He passed away doing something he loved

But something will continue: The picture of Dan’s dog Artimus adorns most of the referee badges in the world. Dan once produced them and said: “If everyone would be as peaceful as Artimus, there would be no war on earth.” It was his lucky charm, and now it should remind us of a man who loved so much what he did – and that he passed away doing something he loved – while officiating a local volleyball match in Colorado Springs.

“We’ve all been so lucky to work with him, to call him a friend,” Keith says. “And now, proud organ donor that he is, Dan will save some 40 lives this week.” That brought a smile to the face of his wife, Bonnie. Even that day when she was forced to say goodbye. We all should try a smile, remembering all the moments of laughter and joy, of arguments and controversial discussions, moments of deep understanding or a little displeasure, or when we had to accept that Dan was right once again.

Dan Apol, the referee badge with Artimus and his good friend, Jose Maria Padron. Credit: Jose Padron.Dan Apol, the referee badge with Artimus and his good friend, Jose Maria Padron. Credit: Jose Padron.

Conny carries Artemis around the world on her suitcase. Credit: www.kurth-media.de.Conny carries Artemis around the world on her suitcase. Credit: www.kurth-media.de.

Rest in peace with your whistle, Dan.

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