Our favorite indoor village green won't be the same without Frankewicz

New London — There is comfort in finding solace and gratitude in little things. And so maybe that's where we begin. The little thing — seeing the same friendly face every day — happily begins the daily journey.

At least for me. My day normally begins at Muddy Waters, so much more than a coffee shop on Bank St. It's the hub of the city, the indoor village green, where the spirit of New London and all its eclectic wonder conspires every day to guzzle Sumatra, share news tips and solve the problems of the world.

And there behind the counter is the aforementioned friendly face, Bailey Frankewicz, a former two-sport kid at Waterford High who is all grown up now, her own version of "John at the bar" from Piano Man.

Bailey is always, as Billy Joel once sang, "quick with a joke or to light up your smoke," figuratively being that attendant, friendly face of every day for many of us.

Friday is her last day at Muddy's. She's off to pursue other career opportunities. We — and when I say "we" I mean our band of characters, comedians, commentators and conversationalists — will miss her dearly.

"Bailey's been with us — I know as far back when she wasn't even driving," said Sue Devlin, who owns Muddy's, among New London's most important businesses, with her husband, Barry Neistat. "She's just phenomenal. Our customers love her. She's been part of our family. People love seeing her."

I've known Bailey for many years now, back to her soccer and softball playing days at Waterford. She had the same people skills then as she does now.

"I remember the first day I met her down at Spera Field. She looked me dead in the eyes, shook my hand firmly and said, 'Hi coach, I'm Bailey, I can't wait to play soccer for you." She was 12, I think," her former high school coach (and current Waterford selectman) Rob Brule said Thursday. "From that day on she was 'Bay' and became the captain of our team. When you lose a Bailey Frankewicz, whether it's on the athletic field or in business, there will be a void never filled. I was lucky to coach her. I will miss that smile and her natural ability to make others smile."

Bailey also represents an unintended consequence of my career choice: the number of kids I've met who have become friends. I never saw this coming.

Kids from the courts and fields were at one time simply interview subjects and column topics. I always envisioned they viewed me as sort of an exotic plant, never knowing what to do or say to this strange creature, while I peppered them with questions and wrote down their answers.

As one kid-turned-friend once said, "I looked at you and thought, 'who's the fat guy walking around like he owns the place?'"

But then a funny thing happened: life did. Life: the ultimate jigsaw puzzle. And suddenly, many of these kids became adults ... and evolved into friends. Some close friends. Best friends. It's the best testimony yet to the unwritten script. Live earnestly ... help people ... and you just never know how and when things come around again.

And for people with a connection, they always come around again.

It was that way with Bailey. Nothing more than an acquaintance for many years. And now a part of every day with a contribution more valuable than she'll ever know.

If you are one of the many (many) folks in this corner of the world who enjoy Muddy's, pop in today and wish Bailey Frankewicz well. It's not everyone who gets to say they're the face of their place.

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro

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