By LARRY VAUGHT
He couldn’t be there, but no one forgot Van Florence.
The Bluegrass Sports Commission named Florence its Bobby Flynn Volunteer of the Year for his years of service to the Kentucky basketball program as president of UK’s 101 Club for over 30 years.
However, Florence passed Saturday at home after a long illness. He has been born with cerebral palsy, but never let that slow him down and it was the same when he got sick a few years ago. He had worked with Adolph Rupp, Joe Hall, Eddie Sutton, Rick Pitino and Tubby Smith at Kentucky. He helped both Smith and Pitino start charitable foundations during their time at UK.
Florence was honored as one of Camp Horsing Around’s Amazing Eight citizens in Lexington for raising over $75 million for charity in his lifetime.
“Van has given more of himself than anyone I have ever known to help UK’s athletics programs and the Bluegrass area in general,” said Jim Host.
Host is right. Florence was one of a kind and it was no surprise many of UK’s Blue Coats — 101 members — were there Tuesday night. Both speakers and award recipients, including former UK basketball standout Larry Conley, praised Florence.
Florence’s family did not attend. They thought it might be too difficult, and it probably would have been. But they already knew how beloved he was by so many and always will be.