Remembering Red: Park and Rec softball team honors supporter

Published 7:51 pm Friday, July 7, 2017

Softball just hasn’t been the same this summer for the Leif Tax Service team in the Austin Park and Recreation League.

The team lost one of its biggest supporters this past spring when Francis “Red” House passed away. The team took a moment to look back on House’s life with his family and to pay respect to him in Todd Park Wednesday night.

Twenty-one of House’s family members were on hand during a Leif Tax Service game as they gathered together for a picnic and a night of remembrance. Leif Tax Service wore red jerseys with a drawing of a house on it, depicting a “Red House” to honor their big supporter.

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Grant Meany, who plays for Leif Tax Service, is Red’s grandson, and the two shared a strong relationship. Grant was 17 years old when his father died, and Red stepped up and filled that role for him. Grant recalled spending many nights at Todd Park and the race track with Red as he grew up.

Derek Bendt, left, makes a throw for Leif Tax Service as Grant Meany looks on at Todd Park Wednesday night. Bendt and Meany are both grandsons of Francis ‘Red’ House, who passed away in April. The Leif Tax Service team honored House Wednesday. Rocky Hulne/

“He did a lot. He used to coach and umpire out here. He went to every single one our softball games and I’ve been doing this for 10 years,” Grant said. “I don’t think he ever missed a game. He was a father figure for me. I think of him all of the time and the first time we came out here [this summer], it was hard not seeing him.”

Red’s son, Steve House, recalled playing catch with his dad every day after work, no matter how long or how hard Red’s most recent shift was. Steve said his dad was a strong supporter of everyone in his family and Red would often make trips up to Minneapolis to watch Steve’s children compete in sports when they were in high school.

Steve said Red’s positivity flowed into all aspects of life.

Grant Meany makes a play on the ball in a softball game at Todd Park Wednesday. Rocky Hulne/

“He always encouraged and he never discouraged,” Steve said. “It was always a positive experience for everybody. I think that carried over to everything, even to our careers. He was always there for us in whatever we did, it wasn’t just sports. He never missed a family event and [softball] was essentially a family event to him.”

Preston Bain, who plays on the Leif Tax Service team, is best friends with Grant Meany, and he has fond memories of Red while he was growing up. Bain said that it was always great to have Red at the games on softball nights.

“He was a friend to every team here,” Bain said. “He was always here to cheer us on. I honestly don’t think he ever missed a single game. He always gave us a few pointers here and there, and he might have complained about the ump a time or two. But he was here cheering whether it was hot or cold.”

Before he became a super fan, Red played a little baseball himself. He played for a traveling Air Force team in the 1950s and he went on to play for the Leif Tax Service team. Red was passionate about spreading his love of the game to the next generation. When his grandchildren were attending Southland High School, Red would go out of his way to pay people’s sports fees if they couldn’t afford it.

Cindy Meany, Red’s daughter, said he was always helpful to her children.

“He was a wonderful guy and I was lucky to have him as grandpa to my kids,” said Cindy. “Wednesday nights at the ball field was always a family night for us, so this year has been really sad. Ryan Leif gave a speech and there was a moment of silence before the first pitch of the first game. That’s just how much everybody thought of him.”

Preston Bain looks on during a softball game at Todd Park Wednesday. Rocky Hulne/

Derek Berndt, a grandson of Red, who plays for Leif Tax Service, remembered Red being around for as long as he could remember.

“Tonight was really nice. He would have enjoyed this just as much as any other night he was out here. I know that,” Berndt said. “He was very involved and I don’t know if he ever missed, a football, volleyball or baseball game. He would always travel to the away games and he was always there.”

Red passed away at the age of 87 on April 13. He was a 1948 Austin High School grad and he worked at Hormel Foods Corp. for 37 and a half years.