THE American national anthem might have been sung in more unusual locations than the Lauren Jackson Sports Centre.
But it is unlikely to be have been sung in any more poignant circumstances than it was at Allen McCowan’s memorial service yesterday when his mother LaDonna Beatty gave a powerful and moving rendition of The Star-Spangled Banner.
It was met with warm applause and moved many to tears as she told her boy, “sleep on, my child”.
Click play to watch the moving performance.
His mother’s talent as a singer was something McCowan had been extremely proud of.
Father Kevin Flanagan, who presided over the celebration of the life of “Big Al”, quipped afterwards that an approach should be made to the appropriate authorities to would allow Ms Beatty to remain in Australia for some time to come.
“You can come and sing at our church (Sacred Heart at North Albury) any time,” he said.
His comment was met with laughter that was repeated throughout the service at the stadium where the Bandits’ legend and 2008 Albury Citizen of the Year brought so much happiness and joy with his outstanding basketball skills and breathtaking athleticism.
In fact the occasion was reminiscent of watching the Bandits during those times when their popularity seemed to know no boundaries.
Those who didn’t turn up to the stadium until 10 minutes or so before the service had to park 500 metres away, just how it used to be on match night.
The stadium was at capacity with 1200 mourners.
A montage of Al’s efforts over the years in his number 24 singlet was played on one wall of the main court, where the celebration of his life took place.
And in the centre of the court, with his family nearby, sat his coffin, draped in the US flag and a representation of his famous jumper, symbolic of how often he was the centre of attention whenever he took to the court.
The stands were packed with people from all walks of life and the Border basketball community, including former teammates, coaches and administrators and school students the McCowan family had touched, including those from St Anne’s, where his wife Caroline teaches.
His mother LaDonna spoke not only of the special bond she had with her son but also of how loved he was by many people.
Family friend Nick Dempsey, whom Allen coached, and best friend Andrew Moore also delivered eulogies.
And it takes a special sort of man to live his life in such a manner to receive such a glowing commendation from his mother-in-law as the eulogy Joan Gunter delivered.
Caroline McCowan talked of her late husband’s love for his family, his homeland and his team, the Kentucky Wildcats.
“People knew Allen for being gentle, big-hearted, competitive, an inspiration and a mentor,” she said.
“He also took enormous pride in being inducted to Georgetown College’s Hall of Fame in Kentucky.
“But every night he would turn to me and tell me that myself and the girls were his great love, that we were everything to him, and we would sit together for hours and talk about everything, our goals and our dreams.”
People who watch their first basketball match are often taken back by the unique call to arms of a team’s supporters, “Dee Fence”, followed by a vigorous clapping of hands and repeated at least six times.
One got the feeling those in attendance would not have been above breaking out into the chant, perhaps substituting “Biiig Al” for the original.
Or breaking into song with “He Was Our Champion”, a variation of the words from Queen’s famous song which bounces around just about every basketball stadium in Australia when a game is under way.
Perhaps the final word should come from Father Flanagan.
“He was a good man,” he said, a comment surely met with approval by those who had come to say goodbye to their hero, their mentor, their relative, their friend and so many other things to so many people.